Montag, 15. Mai 2023, 16:45 - 18:15 iCal

Envy and social rank - Gastvortrag von Dr. Jens Lange Universität Hamburg

Hörsaal B Psychologie, NIG 6.Stock A0610
Universitätsstraße 7, 1010 Wien


People widely regard envy as a malevolent emotion that is rightly condemned as a deadly sin in biblical writings. However, recent research questions that envy is inherently evil. Evidence indicates that envy arises from a comparison with a person who has superior qualities, achievements, or possessions and triggers a goal to level the difference between the self and this upward standard. Extending this observation, I argue that envy contributes to the regulation of social hierarchies—a social functional approach to envy. Three lines of research provide support for this assertion. First, envy is more intense following displays of social rank (i.e., pride) by successful others. Second, envy is felt more intensely by people with pronounced desires for higher social rank (i.e., people with higher grandiose narcissism). Third, people who experience envy use various (immoral) means to attain higher social rank. In all three lines of research, it is important to consider that envy includes feelings, thoughts, and motivations directed at improving the self—benign envy—or harming the envied person—malicious envy. That is, benign and malicious envy are triggered by different displays of other’s social rank, relate to different dimensions of narcissism, and are facilitated by different means. Collectively, the social-functional approach provides a more nuanced perspective on envy and implies that envy should not be prematurely condemned.


Fakultät für Psychologie


Annleena Backhaus
Institut für Lehrer*innenbildung