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People Biologically Take Pleasure in The Pain of Others

Update Date: Oct 30, 2013 10:51 AM EDT

People are naturally programmed to take pleasure in other’s pain and the reaction is termed as “Schadenfreude,” a new study suggests.

The inspiration for the research originated from an incident when a researcher named Mina Cikara wore a Boston Red Sox hat in a Yankees game. The incident earned her more than one vulgarity.

Researchers measured the electric activity of cheek muscles in which they found that people had a broader smile when someone they envy met misfortune of a discomfort.

“We were interested in the conditions under which people fail to empathize with one another and how, for some of those people, they experience happiness at another’s expense,” Cikar who is now an assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon University, said in a statement, according to Nature World News.

In the second experiment, Cikar along with her colleagues used functional MRI (fMRI) and self-reporting to discover whether participants were willing to inflict harm on certain groups.

“People were willing to hurt an envy target, saying, ‘Yes, let’s shock her,’” Cikara added. “We found that surprising because we weren’t certain participants would self report that.”

Researchers also presented various scenarios that countered the stereotype of a certain individual which included a banker advising clients pro-bono.

“We need to remember this in terms of everyday situations. If you think about the way workplaces and organizations are set up, for example, it raises an interesting question: Is competition the best way to get your employees to produce? It’s possible, in some circumstances, that competition is good. In other ways, people might be preoccupied with bringing other people down, and that’s not what an organization wants,” Cikara concluded according to Nature World News.

The findings of the study are published in journal Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.

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