The joy of another's misfortune

Tiffany Watt Smith

[This] treatise on one of the most shame-inducing but widespread of all emotions is funny and insightful.

Sunday Times

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?

MORE: Read an extract from 'Schadenfreude'

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.

Date published
Buy the book

About the author

Photograph of Tiffany Watt Smith

Tiffany Watt Smith

Tiffany Watt Smith is a research fellow at the QMUL Centre for the History of the Emotions, and was a 2014 BBC New Generation Thinker. Before beginning her academic career, she worked as a theatre director, including as Associate Director at the Arcola Theatre and International Associate at the Royal Court.