Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Why Do We Love To Watch People Fail?

We absolutely love watching people fail.

There is something about hilarious pictures of poor little kids eating it (Jenny and I were dying when we saw this...we're horrible people).

But we also love things like the "audition" segment of American Idol. Where we get to watch poor unsuspecting chumps who think they CAN sing embarrass themselves and fail miserably.

Or maybe your choice is sports. You take pleasure in a specific team or a specific person losing. Maybe it's your team's "rival" team in your division. Maybe you get a little feeling of awesome when the Patriots lose in the playoffs. Or the Colts. Or the Yankees. Or some other historically successful team that people love to hate.

Perhaps it's a bit more personal. Maybe you have some professional "competition." Or perceived competition. Could be that you have had a time where an office rival got in trouble for something, or a competing project from another failed miserably and you were pleased because it opened up opportunity for you.

A family member or acquaintance who "got what was coming to them" through some circumstance.

We don't really have a word for this. But the Germans do: Schadenfreude. It basically means delighting in the misfortune of others. It's pretty dang common.

Studies suggest that it's associated with envy. Or that it's more common in men than women. Others assign it to the "social comparison theory." That is when we witness people doing poorly, we feel better about ourselves.

There could be other reasons why this is the case. I happen to throw this into our self-serving, unsympathetic, sinful state of existence.

Do you have any other suggestions?

Ever witnessed this in others? Ever felt it in yourself?

I know I have. Right now actually. Hence the post.