Envy hurts

December 2010

Located in sixth place in the traditional list of seven deadly sins, envy is the deep and usually hostile resentment you feel toward someone who has something you want for yourself.

The person who experiences envy feels as an inferior, a kind of loser trapped in evil. A jealous people find it particularly difficult to appreciate the good things in life are usually too worried as how to reflect on their self, on a par, instead of trying to enjoy their achievements continuously compared with others in pursuit of that have-nots.

Now researchers are beginning to understand the neural circuitry of envy and what can be experienced with real pain. Scientists at the Institute of Radiological Sciences in Japan scanned the brains of 19 young people as they imagined themselves as actors in social situations with other characters of varying status or success.

When participants are confronted with people who envied the brain regions involved in the registration of physical pain were activated: the more profound was the envy, were activated more strongly the pain centers of the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex and other brain areas related . By contrast, when people were given the opportunity to imagine that the subject fell into ruin envied then activated the brain's reward circuits in proportion to how great was the envy envy those who felt more responsive to news of the misfortune of others with a more active response in the dopamine pleasure centers.

The director of research argues that it is a reaffirmation of a Japanese proverb: "The misfortunes of others know honey," but beyond the conventional wisdom is right that envy is a feeling promoted by a society based on competitiveness. However, is at the same time feeling more oppressed and less socially shared. People find it particularly difficult to recognize but I feel like a persistent pain almost becomes a physical pain. Why? Because our culture, essentially competitive, we are educated to understand the achievements of others as personal failures, so the envy is experienced as an eminently emotional pain activated brain areas related to conflict monitoring and error as well as those involved in the perception of pain.

Source: Hidehiko, T. et. Al. (2009) When Your Gain Is My Pain and Your Pain Is My Gain: Neural Correlates of Envy and Schadenfreude. Science; 323(5916): 937 – 939.