German Study Discovers Schadenfreude

What you’ve always suspected is true: your elders kind of like it when you have to suck on the lemons of life experience. According to a study conducted by Drs. Silvia Knobloch-Westerwick of Ohio State and Matthias Hastall, from the Zeppelin University in Friedrichshafen, Germany, older folks are often shown in a negative light, derided as stodgy and absent-minded. So, says Dr. Knobloch-Westerwick, older folks in “a youth-centered culture” are grateful for what they see as “a boost in self-esteem.” She continues: “That’s why they prefer the negative stories about younger people, who are seen as having a higher status in our society.” Knobloch-Westerwick and Hastall studied nearly 300 German adults, ages ranging from 18-30 and 55 to 60. They showed the adults a fake online news site and gave them a few moments to browse either negative or positive versions of several articles. Older test subjects  tended to pick negative articles about younger people. In general, they had no interest in articles about people in their age group or older.

Basically, it took a study done in Germany to prove to us that schadenfreude exists. It’s all about self-esteem, according to Knobloch-Westerwick. She said that self-esteem boosts for younger people are “almost automatic” because “youth is considered important in our society.”

This just makes older people mad and they enjoy seeing those whippersnappers get their comeuppance. Science!

The researchers were careful to note that even though their study took place in Germany, they feel “much the same would hold true” if it was done in America.


German Study Discovers Schadenfreude