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Why do we feel pleasure at someone else’s misfortune?

Schadenfreude is a German word that means “harm-joy”. It is the pleasure we feel from someone else’s misfortune, and it can come in many shades. It is the laughter we can’t stifle when someone unexpectedly falls over, or the triumphant pleasure we feel when a rival is defeated. We can also feel it when something bad happens to someone we genuinely like.

Edwina Pitman examines why, even when we’re happy and successful, we can’t help but enjoy others’ bad luck.

Esther Walker - journalist
Dr Tiffany Watt Smith - cultural historian and author of Schadenfreude: The Joy of Another’s Misfortune
Professor Richard Smith - professor of psychology, University of Kentucky
Dr Andre Szameitat - reader in psychology, Brunel University
Anuvab Pal - Comedian
Mike Wendling - Editor, BBC Trending

Presented and produced by Edwina Pitman
Editor: Richard Knight

(Photo: Cheerful young woman lying on sofa with laptop in modern office lounge. Credit: Getty Images)

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23 minutes

Last on

Mon 8 Jul 2019 08:06GMT


  • Mon 1 Jul 2019 12:32GMT
  • Mon 1 Jul 2019 17:06GMT
  • Mon 1 Jul 2019 21:06GMT
  • Tue 2 Jul 2019 01:32GMT
  • Mon 8 Jul 2019 08:06GMT

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