Pleased about another's mishap
You see the other guy mess up and you can hardly keep from smiling. You are
gloating at their mishap. We all seem to enjoy seeing a jerk get what he
deserves. Perhaps you feel a bit guilty
or shameful for not feeling
compassion, but you believe their mishap is their own fault.
- Pleased about an event undesirable for another
- Pleased about another's mishap.
- Celebrating a rival's mistakes.
Root: Probably from Old Norse glotta smile scornfully.
Note that envy and gloating have parallel structures.
Envy is when you feel
bad because a rival did well, and gloating is when you feel good because a rival
The English language terms: celebrate, crow, glory, rejoice, relish, rub it
in, taunting, triumph, vaunt, and whoop are inexact synonyms for gloating. The word
Schadenfreude, borrowed from German is a close synonym. We also speak of someone
getting their “just deserts” or their comeuppance when we are referring to
Humor and Gloating
Gloating is at the root of certain forms of humor. We laugh when the slap-stick
comic falls down, especially if he is not seriously hurt, and if the fall could
have been prevented. We laugh when people in power are “knocked down a peg” and
are “put in their place” and perhaps made to look a bit silly. The emotion is stronger the less we care about the person, the more we hold them responsible for the
misdeed, and the more the event was unexpected. Gloating is especially sweet if
we envied the person or sought
revenge on them. All this makes for especially good gossip. Our laughing
(and gossip) draws attention to the preventable mistake (including
hubris) and encourages
others to learn from and avoid similar mistakes.
Pity, Responsibility, and Gloating
We feel pity and compassion when an unfortunate
person is hurt. But we gloat when someone is hurt as a result of their own
clumsiness, stupidity, pride, greed, or carelessness. Our assessment of their
responsibility for the problem is the key
distinction. If we believe they could have prevented the problem, we hold them
responsible for their own pain; we gloat and hope they learned their lesson.
If the hurt was an unavoidable misfortune, then we pity the poor person because
they had no role or responsibility for the loss. Gloating is about mistakes,
compassion is about misfortune. The degree of hurt or suffering also
distinguishes gloating from pity. We gloat when the pain suffered seems
proportional to our dislike of the person; in that case they are simply getting
what they deserve. But we are likely to pity someone who suffers a true tragedy,
even if we don't like them. The degree of dislike also influences the intensity
of gloating. The more we dislike the person, the more intensely we gloat at
their mishap. This is reciprocity in action.
We feel contempt for someone who is demonstrating
their characteristic lower stature. We gloat when someone of high status we don't
care about is responsible for causing their own temporary setback.
- He who laughs last, laughs best
The Cognitive Structure of Emotions, by Andrew Ortony, Gerald L. Clore, Allan Collins
The Origin of Emotions, Version 1.0, by Mark Devon
Fear, Sadness, Anger, Joy, Surprise, Disgust, Contempt,
Anger, Envy, Jealousy, Fright, Anxiety, Guilt, Shame, Relief, Hope, Sadness, Depression, Happiness,
Pride, Love, Gratitude, Compassion, Aesthetic Experience,
Joy, Distress, Happy-for, Sorry-for, Resentment, Gloating, Pride, Shame, Admiration, Reproach,
Love, Hate, Hope, Fear, Satisfaction, Relief, Fears-confirmed, Disappointment, Gratification,
Gratitude, Anger, Remorse,
power, dominance, stature, relationships