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Emotion based learning under competitive conditions: The effect of schadenfreude

Stanciu, Marian (2010) Emotion based learning under competitive conditions: The effect of schadenfreude. University of Bangor.

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Abstract

It has previously been found that competition and feelings of inferiority can independently produce schadenfreude (pleasure at other’s misfortune) and that schadenfreude has a negative influence on emotion based learning during the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT), when a participant (the Observer), who had watched a same-sex friend (the Player) perform the IGT in the absence of any interaction between the two, has to subsequently play the IGT. The present study investigates the effect of schadenfreude on learning during competitive situations. A sample of 90 university students completed the IGT in two competitive conditions with and without feelings of inferiority (participants were told that the Player had higher academic results than the Observer, and that this was the criteria for allocating them to the two roles). Contrary to our predictions, the results showed that schadenfreude did not influence the Observer’s emotional learning in the two competitive scenarios, and revealed an unexpected impaired performance for the Player. These findings expand the conclusion of previous studies that any form of emotional investment during vicarious learning opportunities can negate the disruptive effect of schadenfreude on emotional learning and we propose a novel factor (perceived task difficulty) that might impair the naïve player’s IGT performance.

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