Tuesday, January 31, 2006

does schadenfreude make you more of a man?

Over at Slate, William Saletan reports on a new study that finds that men enjoy punishing evildoers more than women do. I wonder if comic books have anything to do with it.

Scientists planted actors among volunteers playing a game. Some actors played fairly; others played unfairly. Then the researchers delivered electric shocks to the actors while monitoring the brains of volunteers who looked on.

Men, like women, showed "empathy-related activation in pain-related brain areas" when shocks were administered to actors who had played fairly. But when shocks were delivered instead to actors who had played unfairly, empathetic responses in men, unlike women, "were significantly reduced." In fact, men showed "increased activation in reward-related areas, correlated with an expressed desire for revenge." Apparently, judgment controls men's feelings more than women's. It determines who gets our empathy and who gets our schadenfreude—the joy of watching the suffering of someone you dislike.