ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2012, Vol. 20 ›› Issue (9): 1467-1478.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2012.01467

• Regular Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Envy: A Social Emotion Characterized by Hostility Envy: A Social Emotion Characterized by Hostility

WU Bao-Pei;CHANG Lei   

  1. Department of Educational Psychology, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China
  • Received:2011-11-04 Online:2012-09-15 Published:2012-09-15
  • Contact: CHANG Lei

Abstract: Envy is an intense and painful emotion that is mixed with feelings of inferiority, hostility, and resentment often evoked by witnessing the possession and achievement of one’s own desired objects and goals by other individuals in a competitive relationship. Envy is both a trait and a state variable representing a stable disposition as well as a state of mind. Some of the proximate causes of envy include similarity with the involving competitors, self-relevance, perceived control and sense of injustice. From the perspective of evolutionary psychology, envy functions to heighten one’s awareness of potential competitors in competing for resources such as mates and status, and motivates the individual to take actions. The reason that the feeling of hostility usually accompanies envy may lie in the fact that a self-perception of deservedness or entitlement is the default response that motivates competition. Such brain regions as anterior cingulate cortex, ventral striatum, and ventromedial prefrontal lobe are particularly relevant to the processing envy. Envy influences physical and mental health leading to aggression, schadenfreude, as well as prosocial behavior. We discuss these and other causes and correlates of envy within the evolutionary and social psychological framework.

Key words: envy, jealousy, hostility, social emotion, social comparison, evolutionary psychology g