Date of Submission

Spring 2012

Academic Program

Psychology; Human Rights

Project Advisor 1

Kristin Lane

Project Advisor 2

Thomas Keenan

Abstract/Artist's Statement

Previous work has shown that intergroup schadenfreude, the pleasure at another group’s misfortune, may help explain group-based violence. The present study aimed to further explore the role of schadenfreude in intergroup conflicts. Drawing upon historical examples (i.e., the Holocaust and lynching in the United States), the first half of my project demonstrated that cheering over the suffering of others provides public support and legitimacy to the violence against outgroup members. Therefore, feelings and expressions of schadenfreude should be viewed as responsible for sustaining and exacerbating intergroup conflict. The second half of my project empirically investigated one potential consequence of experiencing schadenfreude - the dehumanization of outgroup victims as a self-justification strategy to rationalize such malicious pleasure. I further proposed that the negative stereotyping of victims might mediate the relationship between schadenfreude and dehumanization. During the experiment, participants were induced with either positive or neutral emotions prior to reading about an unfortunate or a neutral event happening to an outgroup. Participants then indicated the extent to which they dehumanized and stereotyped the victims. This emotion induction task was anticipated to evoke feelings of schadenfreude in those who read the misfortune story and to subsequently influence their attitudes toward the victims. The manipulation check showed that my schadenfreude manipulation was largely unsuccessful, and thus failed to produce meaningful differences in the dependent measures among conditions. However, consistent with my conceptual hypothesis, the internal analysis suggested that schadenfreude was positively correlated with dehumanization. Possible explanations, implications, and future directions will be discussed.

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