Envy – an Unwanted, yet Unavoidable and Necessary Emotion


  • Andrea Milic University of Rijeka, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Department of Psychology, Rijeka


emotion, envy, social comparison, evolutionary psychology


Envy is a word signifying an emotion that arises from social comparison and signals that one is outperformed by another person, or group of people, which makes one feel painful inferiority. It originates from the Latin "invidere" which means to "gaze maliciously". Yet, this emotion does not want to be communicated. It is hard to identify or admit it, partly because of a range of other negative emotions, such as hostility, resentment and rejection that accompany envious feelings. Envy may also trigger admiration that motivates one to "do better". However, subjective, historical and philosophical accounts overwhelmingly speak of its negative consequences. Not surprisingly, envy is regarded as a social taboo. Even the traditional scientific community considers envy as a "second class" emotion. It is said that envy does not meet the criteria for basic emotions. Only recently, with the paradigmatic shift in modern evolutionary psychology, a new framework was offered and started shedding light onto the emotion nobody likes to feel, think or talk about. This paper presents a review of theoretical considerations, predictions and empirical results, emerging from a relatively small amount of studies that incited a change in the conceptualization of this unwanted and seemingly inept emotion.