Few people will easily admit to taking pleasure in the misfortunes of others. But who doesn’t enjoy it when an arrogant but untalented contestant is humiliated on American Idol, or when the embarrassing vice of a self-righteous politician is exposed, or when a rival sports team suffers a humiliating loss, or even when an envied friend suffers a small setback? The truth is that joy in someone else’s pain— known by the German word schadenfreude— permeates our society. This book focuses on the reasons why we feel this emotion and what this understanding suggests about human nature.
“Richard Smith’s long-awaited book is a profound, thoughtful meditation on one of the most puzzling and disturbing forms of human emotion. Mixing scientific research, popular culture, striking anecdotes, and personal reflection, it is a stimulating, enjoyable, yet unsettling read. I recommend it to anyone with a serious interest in human emotion and motivation — and to anyone with an abiding curiosity about the peculiar twists and turns of human nature.”
--Roy F. Baumeister, Francis Eppes Eminent Scholar, Florida State University, author of Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength
"Erudite. Enviable. Engaging stories from popular culture, fiction, history, daily life, sports, and science. This will be the book you wish you had written. But instead of schadenfreude, you will feel admiration and gratitude to the author for his profound contribution."
--Susan Fiske, Eugene Higgins Professor, Psychology & Public Affairs, Princeton University; author of Envy Up, Scorn Down
“Richard Smith’s wonderful book gives us new insight into ourselves, and the ‘dark’ emotions of envy and schadenfreude that we all feel, but like to deny. The book is fun and easy to read, even as it gives us insight into some of our darker emotions. You will learn more about yourself and the world from this book than most any book you have read recently. If you want a book that can improve you as a person, this book is it. Although it focuses on dark emotions, it shows the reasons for these emotions, how very pervasive they are, and how they can be overcome.”
--Ed Diener, Distinguished Professor of Psychology (Emeritus), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
“A very enjoyable read; this is the most comprehensive collection of Schadenfreude research to date. Interweaving the science with historical and fictional anecdotes, Smith contextualizes and thereby humanizes the experience of Schadenfreude--a feat unto itself. Readers will undoubtedly relish learning more about when and why another’s pain can be cause for pleasure.”
--Mina Cikara, Assistant Professor, Department of Social and Decision Science, Carnegie Mellon University