Schadenfreude – enjoying the pain and failures of others – is an all-too-familiar feeling. It has perplexed philosophers and psychologists for centuries but, in a time of polarised politics, Twitter trolls and 'sidebars of shame', has never been more relevant. Recent studies have shown that we smile more at a rival's loss than at our own success. But why can it be so much fun to witness another's distress? And what, if anything, should we do about it?
In ‘Schadenfreude’, historian of emotions Tiffany Watt Smith offers expert insight and advice. Ranging across thinkers from Nietzsche to Homer Simpson, investigating the latest scientific research and collecting some outrageous confessions along the way, she reveals how everyone – babies, nuns, your most trusted friends – are enjoying your misfortunes. But rather than an emotional glitch, she argues, schadenfreude can reveal profound truths about our relationships with others and our sense of who we are.
Frank, warm and laugh-out-loud funny, ‘Schadenfreude’ makes the case for thinking afresh about this much-maligned emotion, and perhaps embracing it.