Image credit: Chris Wildt

Preference for hierarchy is related to the motivation to feel less empathy and more schadenfreude towards low status people

Image credit: Chris Wildt

Preference for hierarchy is related to the motivation to feel less empathy and more schadenfreude towards low status people

Abstract

Social dominance orientation (SDO)—the tendency to accept and endorse group-based dominance—has been linked with reduced empathy and increased schadenfreude (i.e., pleasure at the misfortunes of others) towards competitive others. Are these outcomes driven by a strategic motivation to feel emotions that facilitate hierarchy-reinforcing behaviors (and avoid those that interfere)? Across three pre-registered studies using Amazon Mechanical Turk participants (N = 1724), we find that SDO determines which emotions people want and choose to feel. People with higher (relative to lower) levels of SDO make similar predictions of others’ emotions when asked, but desire to feel less empathy and schadenfreude toward low-status targets, and when given a choice, choose to feel less empathy and more schadenfreude. This work adds to a growing literature on the impact of ideology—in this case, SDO—on emotion tendencies and further expands work on the motivated nature of empathy.

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Sa-kiera T. J. Hudson, PhD
Postdoctoral Associate in the Social Perception and Communications Lab

My research interests include race, gender, sexual orientation, and power.