Envy & Inequality


Envy is the frustrating feeling that you can feel when someone else is better off. It has traditionally been seen as a very negative emotion, and thought to lead to ill will towards the envied person. 
In our work we mainly focus on the bright side of this deadly sin, and investigate when envy actually motivates people to do better themselves or to acquire that what the envied person has. Envy appears to have two subtypes: benign and malicious envy. Both types of envy feel frustrating, as one feels upset because someone else is better off than you are. But malicious envy focuses on a desire that the other loses their advantage, while benign envy actually motivates people to improve themselves.

We think that this work gives insight in how people respond when others are better off, but also when they are better off and fear that others might be envious of them.

Below I'll provide an overview of all papers on this topic, with a really short description. See the publications for all the papers.
 
 
Van de Ven, N., Zeelenberg, M., & Pieters, R. (2009). Leveling up and down: The experience of benign and malicious envy. Emotion, 9(3), 419-429. doi: 10.1037/a0015669
[this work is the first that empirically distinguishes the subtypes of envy, by investigating the experiential content of the emotions. we test this experience in the Netherlands, the U.S., and Spain]
 
Van de Ven, N., Zeelenberg, M., & Pieters, R. (2010). Warding off the evil eye: When the fear of envy increases prosocial behavior. Psychological Science, 21(11), 1671-1677. doi: 10.1177/0956797610385352
[we find that people who fear being envied, act more helpful towards those who might be envious. this effect only occurs when others are likely maliciously envious, not when they are benignly envious]
 
Van de Ven, N., Zeelenberg, M., & Pieters, R. (2011). Why envy outperforms admiration. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 37(6), 784-795. doi: 10.1177/0146167211400421
[benign envy is found to actually motivate people to do better themselves. Students who are benignly envious of another student plan to spend more hours on their study, and actually work longer and perform better on an intelligence task]
 
Van de Ven, N., Zeelenberg, M., & Pieters, R. (2011). The envy premium in product evaluation. Journal of Consumer Research, 37(6), 984-998. doi: 10.1086/657239
[envy is often thought to drive consumption. we test whether this is the case, and indeed find that people who are benignly envious are willing to pay more for a product owned if someone with that product triggered benign envy. for malicious envy, people seem to actually prefer other products]
 
Van de Ven, N., Zeelenberg, M., & Pieters, R. (2012). Appraisal patterns of envy and related emotions. Motivation and Emotion, 36(2), 195-204. doi: 10.10007/s11031-011-9235-8
[in this research we explore which appraisals distinguish benign and malicious envy. we find that undeserved situations lead to more malicious envy, and more deserved situations are more likely to trigger benign envy]
 
Van de Ven, N. & Zeelenberg, M. (2015). The counterfactual nature of envy: “It could have been me”. Cognition and Emotion, 29(6), 954-971. doi: 10.1080/02699931.2014.957657
[counterfactuals are the thoughts we have when we compare the situation as it is, to what it could have been. we find that the more people think the counterfactual thought "it could have been me", the more they experience envy]
 
Van de Ven, N., Hoogland, C., Smith, R. H., Van Dijk, W. W., Breugelmans, S. M., & Zeelenberg, M. (2015). When envy leads to schadenfreude. Cognition and Emotion, 29(6), 1007-1025. doi: 10.1080/02699931.2014.961903
[past research findings were mixed on whether envy led to schadenfreude, the joy over the misfortune of another person. we find that malicious envy does lead to schadenfreude, while benign envy does not]
 
Evers, E. R. K., Van de Ven, N., & Weeda, D. (2015). The hidden cost of microtransactions: Buying in-game advantages in online games decreases a player’s status. International Journal of Internet Science, 10(1), 20-36.
[based on psychological theories, we predicted that gamers would dislike other gamers who buy in-game advantages using microtransactions. most importantly, the findings fromt these three studies help to identify why this is the case and provide ideas for future research and game designers]
 
Van de Ven, N. (2016). Envy and its consequences: Why it is useful to distinguish between benign and malicious envy. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 106, 337-349. doi: 10.1111/spc3.12253
[an overview article on research on the distinction between benign and malicious envy, explaining why it is useful to make this distinction. it also focuses on the determinants of the two envy types, and how to measure them]
 
Van de Ven, N. (2017). Envy and admiration: Emotion and motivation following upward social comparison. Cognition and Emotion, 31(1), 193-200. doi: 10.1080/02699931.2015.1087972
[tests whether admiration and bengin envy both lead to a motivation to improve, as I had found that admiration did not do so while Schindler et al found that it did. turns out I was wrong earlier, admiration does lead to a motivation to improve. also provides a measure for general envy in a language with two words for envy, and for benign / malicious envy in a language with only one word]
 
Lin, R., Van de Ven, N., & Utz, S. (2018). What triggers envy on social network sites? A comparison between shared experiential and material purchases. Computers in Human Behavior, 85, 271-281. doi: 10.1016/j.chb.2018.03.049
[people are more envious of social media posts that are about experiences, than those of material purchases. but people do not like to be envied, so why do they keep sharing these experiential posts? the answer is that people think that others will be more envious of material purchases]
 
Van de Ven, N. (2018). Schadenfreude and Gluckschmerz Are Emotional Signals of (Im)Balance. Emotion Review, 10, 305-306. doi: 10.41177/1754073918768883
[article responds to Smith and Van Dijk's article on schadenfreude and gluckschmerz. i try to further these ideas by arguing that schadenfreude and gluckschmerz are best seen as signals that indicate that a balance in how we would want the world to be is restored (for schadenfreude) or violated (for gluckschmerz)]
 
Van de Ven, N., Archer, A., & Engelen, B. (2019). More Important and Surprising Actions of a Moral Exemplar Trigger Stronger Admiration and Inspiration. The Journal of Social Psychology, 159, 383-397. doi: 10.1080/00224545.2018.1498317
[what are the antecedents that trigger admiration and thus make inspiration more likely? we find that perceived importance (and to a lesser extend the perceived surprisingness) of the moral action leads to more admiration and inspiration. By providing a little more detail about the moral action, the perceived importance of an action can be increased leading to more admiration and inspiration]
 
Van de Ven, N., & Zeelenberg, M. (2020). Envy and social comparison. In J. Suls, R. Collins, & L. Wheeler (Eds.), Social Comparison, Judgment and Behavior. (pp. 226-250). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
[summarizes the work on envy, especially in its relation to social comparison theory]
 
Van de Ven, N. (2022). The Envious Consumer. In S. Protasi (Ed.), The Moral Psychology of Envy. (pp. 217-235). Lanham, U.S.A.: Rowman and Littlefield
[summarizes the work on envy, especially in its relation to social comparison theory]
  
For other work on inequality, also take a look at the blog post summarizing the work on the strength-is-weakness effect, that finds that those who are better off are regularly excluded from coalition formation as the two weaker players prefer to form a coalition together.

Publications


The Envious Consumer


Niels van de Ven

Sara Protasi, The Moral Psychology of Envy, Rowman and Littlefied: Lanham, USA, pp. 217-235


Envy and Social Comparison


Niels van de Ven, Marcel Zeelenberg

Social Comparison, Judgment and Behavior, Jerry Suls, Rebecca Collins, Ladd Wheeler, Oxford University Press: Oxford, 2020, pp. 226-250


More Important and Surprising Actions of a Moral Exemplar Trigger Stronger Admiration and Inspiration


Niels van de Ven, Alfred Archer, Bart Engelen

The Journal of Social Psychology, vol. 159, 2019, pp. 383-397


Schadenfreude and Gluckschmerz Are Emotional Signals of (Im)Balance


Niels van de Ven

Emotion Review, vol. 10, 2018, pp. 305-306


What Triggers Envy on Social Network Sites? A Comparison between Shared Experiential and Material Purchases.


Ruoyun Lin, Niels van de Ven, Sonja Utz

Computers in Human Behavior, vol. 85, 2018, pp. 271-281


Envy and Admiration: Emotion and Motivation Following Upward Social Comparison


Niels van de Ven

Cognition and Emotion, vol. 31, 2017, pp. 193-200


Envy and Its Consequences: Why It Is Useful to Distinguish Between Benign and Malicious Envy


Niels van de Ven

Social and Personality Psychology Compass, vol. 106, 2016, pp. 337-349


The Hidden Cost of Microtransactions: Buying In-Game Advantages in Online Games Decreases a Player’s Status


Ellen Evers, Niels van de Ven, Dorus Weeda

International Journal of Internet Science, vol. 10(1), 2015, pp. 20-36


When Envy Leads to Schadenfreude


Niels van de Ven, Charles Hoogland, Richard Smith, Wilco van Dijk, Seger Breugelmans, Marcel Zeelenberg

Cognition and Emotion, vol. 29(6), 2015, pp. 1007-1025


The Counterfactual Nature of Envy: “It Could Have Been Me”


Niels van de Ven, Marcel Zeelenberg

Cognition and Emotion, vol. 29(6), 2015, pp. 954-971


Appraisal Patterns of Envy and Related Emotions


Niels van de Ven, Marcel Zeelenberg, Rik Pieters

Motivation and Emotion, vol. 36(2), 2012, pp. 195-204


Why Envy Outperforms Admiration


Niels van de Ven, Marcel Zeelenberg, Rik Pieters

Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, vol. 37(6), 2011, pp. 784-795


The Envy Premium in Product Evaluation


Niels van de Ven, Marcel Zeelenberg, Rik Pieters

Journal of Consumer Research, vol. 37(6), 2011, pp. 984-998


Warding Off the Evil Eye: When the Fear of Envy Increases Prosocial Behavior


Niels van de Ven, Marcel Zeelenberg, Rik Pieters

Psychological Science, vol. 21(11), 2010, pp. 1671-1677


Leveling Up and Down: The Experience of Benign and Malicious Envy


Niels van de Ven, Marcel Zeelenberg, Rik Pieters

Emotion, vol. 9(3), 2009, pp. 419-429




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