Schadenfreude towards attractive same-sex targets: reveling in the failure of attractive peers
In general, attractive individuals tend to receive an array of benefits compared to their less attractive counterparts, including more favorable evaluations in the workplace. However, whereas this pro-attractiveness bias is typically seen in evaluations of opposite-sex targets, research is accumulating that anti-attractiveness biases occur in evaluations of same-sex targets. This study investigated an additional consequence that attractiveness may lead to, specifically, others not only hoping attractive people will fail but taking pleasure in seeing them fail. The malicious joy that is experienced at the expense of another person's misfortune is called schadenfreude. Participants were 190 female undergraduates who were randomly assigned to cells of a 2(Target Attractiveness) X 2(Appearance-related Effort) X 2(Work-related Effort) between-groups design testing the individual and combined effects of these manipulations on participants' schadenfreude. Researchers also tested the degree of schadenfreude predicted by self-rated attractiveness, relevance of the comparison, and perceived similarity to the target person. Results showed that target attractiveness and appearance-related effort alone were not enough to alter schadenfreude but instead other factors were involved. Perceived deservingness in work-related success was shown to decrease schadenfreude when the target put forth high effort. Individual factors, such as self-rated attractiveness and personal relevance were also found to be associated with schadenfreude, while similarity was not.