Wednesday, January 18, 2006


Schadenfreude \SHOD-n-froy-duh\, noun: A malicious satisfaction obtained from the misfortunes of others.

Fantastic word, and something most of us are guilty of at one time or another.

On a somewhat related subject, I was just reading this about the detection of pleasure in people's brains when someone they have perceived to have wronged them is punished physically.

"The scans showed that both sexes experienced increased brain activity in the fronto-singular and anterior cingulate cortices – areas that the associated with the direct experience of pain – when watching other players receive a jolt of electricity. Researchers have previously shown that so-called mirror neurons will sometimes
fire in empathy with another person's experience.

Both men and women also experienced slightly less activity in these areas when cheaters were given a shock, which suggests the feeling of empathy was dependent on social behaviour.

But tellingly, activity dropped much more in men when watching cheaters being buzzed. In addition, several other regions of male participants' brains "lit up" instead – areas linked to the experience of reward known as the ventral striatum/nucleus accumbens and orbito-frontal cortex.

The results suggest that men not only feel less empathy for cheaters but experience pleasure when they are punished."

Brain scans reveal men's pleasure in revenge

Obviously, have to bear in mind that it was a small sample: only 32 people.

And to quote from the article again: "as Sloan also notes that any difference could be entirely cultural, rather than biological. "Just because it happens in the brain, it doesn't mean it's innate." "

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