Honors College Theses

Publication Date



Psychology (B.S.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Faculty Mentor

Dr. Ty W. Boyer


Schadenfreude is a humorous response at the misfortune of others and has been suggested to be an empathic defense mechanism. Previous research indicates that individuals who tend to exhibit the Dark Triad personality traits narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism, experience higher levels of Schadenfreude. Additional studies suggest that music modulates neural activity associated with experiencing humor. In the present study we ask, do music and dark personality traits influence Schadenfreude? Participants viewed a series of brief, randomly intermixed physical misfortune and neutral videos (e.g., a person falling off a treadmill or running on a treadmill, respectively), with either an upbeat or downbeat musical score. Ratings of the video’s humor, excitement, and disturbance were recorded after each video. Participants also completed industry standard self-report measures of the Dark Triad traits. Analyses of covariance of data collected with an university undergraduate sample (N = 120) indicated that participants rated the Schadenfreude videos as more humorous than the neutral videos, that those in the upbeat music condition rated the Schadenfreude stimuli as more and the neutral stimuli as less humorous, and video humor ratings significantly positively varied with psychopathy. Thus, the study tentatively supports the suggestion of Schadenfreude varying with music and personality differences.