Dispositional envy revisited: Unraveling the motivational dynamics of benign and malicious envy

Jens Lange*, Jan Crusius

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

257 Citations (Scopus)


Previous research has conceptualized dispositional envy as a unitary construct. Recently however, episodic envy has been shown to emerge in two qualitatively different forms. Benign envy is related to the motivation to move upward, whereas malicious envy is related to pulling superior others down. In four studies (N = 1,094)—using the newly developed Benign and Malicious Envy Scale (BeMaS)—we show that dispositional envy is also characterized by two independent dimensions related to distinct motivational dynamics and behavioral consequences. Dispositional benign and malicious envy uniquely predict envious responding following upward social comparisons. Furthermore, they are differentially connected to hope for success and fear of failure. Corresponding to these links, dispositional benign envy predicted faster race performance of marathon runners mediated via higher goal setting. In contrast, dispositional malicious envy predicted race goal disengagement. The findings highlight that disentangling the two sides of envy opens up numerous research avenues.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)284-294
Number of pages11
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 17 Feb 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • benign envy
  • envy
  • malicious envy
  • social comparison
  • social emotion


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