December 04, 2010
Fear Of Malicious Envy Elicits Altruistic Behavior

In situations where people were given awards they did nothing to earn the sense of getting an unjustified advantage caused people to act more altruistic. They probably wanted to dampen down the feeling of malicious envy in others.

“In anthropology, they say if you are envied, you might act more socially afterward because you try to appease those envious people,” van de Ven says—by sharing your big catch of fish, for example. They wanted to know if these observations from anthropology held up in the psychology lab. 

In experiments, he and his colleagues made some people feel like they would be maliciously envied, by telling them they would receive an award of five euros—sometimes deserved based on the score they were told they’d earned on a quiz, sometimes not. The researchers figured the deserved prize would lead to benign envy, while the undeserved prize would lead to malicious envy. Then the volunteer was asked to give time-consuming advice to a potentially envious person. 

People who had reason to think they’d be the target of malicious envy were more likely to take the time to give advice than targets of benign envy. 

In another experiment, an experimenter dropped a bunch of erasers as the volunteer was leaving; those who thought they’d be maliciously envied were more likely to help him pick them up. 

None of this is terribly surprising. The researchers previously found envy comes in a benign form that caused those who experience benign envy to want to improve themselves. Basically success inspires attempts to become more successful. But malicious envy causes people to want to bring down others.

In previous research, Niels van de Ven of Tilburg University and his colleagues Marcel Zeelenberg and Rik Pieters had figured out that envy actually comes in two flavors: benign envy and malicious envy. They studied people who showed these two kinds of envy and found that people with benign envy were motivated to improve themselves, to do better so they could be more like the person they envied. On the other hand, people with malicious envy wanted to bring the more successful person down.

Note that a person who focuses on feeling malicious envy misses the opportunity to motivate themselves to become more successful. Benign envy is more adaptive in most cases.

You can see from this why political class warriors who want to raise taxes or regulate an industry try to argue that their targets do not deserve their success. They want to bring out that feeling of malicious envy.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 December 04 11:55 PM  Brain Ethics Law


Comments
Anonymous said at December 6, 2010 6:20 AM:

Now you know why Bill Gates is getting a bunch of super rich people and giving part of their money to charities. They could lower their prices and make more people have their product, but their rather still be assholes and pretend that they're not.

The False God said at December 6, 2010 11:17 AM:

It's nice to know that some people can still miss the entire point of an article if it doesn't fit their worldview.

richard40 said at December 6, 2010 11:39 AM:

Looks like anonymous is consumed by malicious envy. Since Gates did do something real to earn his success, benign envy would be more productive.

This article provides some good insight into the lib/dem worldview. They are consumed by malacious envy, when in most cases they should turn it into benign envy, and figure out ways the poor can succeed, rather than just stealing from the rich and middle class for handouts.

test said at December 6, 2010 12:34 PM:

"Since Gates did do something real to earn his success"

Yes. In a time long ago when computer operating systems were very sophisticated, predictable, and had few bugs, Gates gave us a hideous piece of excrement which whose only merit was being cheap/free and easy to pirate.

Combined with cheap computers (not a problem in itself), Gates' slime mold of an OS came to take over the world, bringing with it a rich diversity of viruses, crashes, and multiple reboots to install applications.

Success has nothing to do with it.


A. Reasoner said at December 6, 2010 12:57 PM:

Test: Not hard to read malicious envy in your interpretation of the success of Gates (since you think that he made a crap OS, he must not have earned his wealth).

And if his POS (pun intended) came to take over the world, it wouldn't be that hundreds of millions of users in a free market choose those other "very sophisticated, predictable, bug-free OS's." They could not have felt that his OS provided some value for them. No, it must have been the oppressive unfairness of an unelected sovereign anointed by some watery tart to bestow magical hypnotic incantations that forced them to buy his system.

For someone that seems like they have half a brain, it looks like you ought to use it. Obama was right: under stress, liberals really can't think straight.

Not Anon said at December 6, 2010 1:10 PM:

I suggest calling malicious envy "Euro-style envy." It pretty much encaspulates how the majority of Euros act towards the U.S.

LarryD said at December 6, 2010 1:25 PM:

Back when IBM wanted an OS for their new Personal Computer; Gates got the opportunity to supply one. Since his company didn't have of it's own written, he went out and bought up another company's OS and turned around and licensed that to IBM. Gate got his monopoly basically handed to him because IBM distributed DOS with their PCs and didn't dual-source.

The False God said at December 6, 2010 4:59 PM:

And that is a violation of people's rights how? Do you realize how often the acquisition of other people's intellectual property for redesign and distribution for sale occurs? Just because Bill Gates did it (and got filthy rich) doesn't automatically make it immoral. You also seem to be overlooking the marketing decisions that made his acquisition attractive and profitable, whereas the Mac's early, mediocre marketing consigned it to market share oblivion.

"He outmarketed us!" is not a very inspiring rally cry for the "abused." Ecomonics is apparently only good when people of similar ideological bents are the ones that profit. I have serious objections about Darth Soros, but I'm hardly going to fault his practices when people were stupid enough to buy into his undermining of their fortunes. If a country walks into his manipulations with open eyes, they have only themselves to blame when he shorts their markets. That's how it is when dealing with money: you eat your mistakes and cash in on your successes.

Unless you have the government sitting by to bail out all your debt, I guess.

Engineer-Poet said at December 7, 2010 5:41 AM:
And that is a violation of people's rights how?
It became a violation of people's rights when Gates & Co. twisted the arms of computer manufacturers to package Windoze with every unit, made them charge extra for units without Windoze, discriminated against mfgrs shipping any OS other than Windoze, gratuitously changed the OS to break the applications of competitors ("Windows isn't done until Lotus won't run"), and a host of other great and small abuses of monopoly power.

Without those, Gates would not have the fortune he's so "generously" giving away.  Even his charity is immoral and undeserved; nothing he can promote today can make up for the damage he's done over the last 30 years.

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