Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Science of Schadenfreude: Nyuck, Nyuck, Nyuck

While we're on the subject of Schadenfreude, I'd like to turn your attention to a scientific study of the brain functions involved. Tania Singer at University College London published her team's findings in the journal Nature about two years ago. I read about it in the New York Times:

"First the experimental subjects watched people playing a game in which some cheated (bad people) and others played fair (good people). Then they watched the same people suffering from a painful stimulus. The empathy circuits lighted up in both men and women when bad things happened to good people. When bad things happened to bad people, the women in the study were still empathic. But not the men. Not only did they show less empathy toward bad people, but the reward center in the left nucleus accumbens lighted up."

This points to biological differences in how men and women respond to bad things happening to bad people, and it may be the final word on why men find The Three Stooges funny and women can't stand them.