On the counterfactual nature of envy: "It could have been me"

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We examined whether counterfactual thinking influences the experience of envy. Counterfactual thinking refers to comparing the situation as it is to what it could have been, and these thought processes have been shown to lead to a variety of emotions. We predicted that for envy the counterfactual thought “it could have been me” would be important. In four studies we found a clear link between such counterfactual thoughts and the intensity of envy. Furthermore, Studies 3 and 4 revealed that a manipulation known to affect the extent of counterfactual thinking (the perception of being close to obtaining the desired outcome oneself), had an effect on the intensity of envy via counterfactual thoughts. This relationship between counterfactual thinking and the experience of envy allows for new predictions concerning situations under which envy is likely be more intense.
Keywords: Envy, Counterfactual thinking, Appraisal, Social comparison
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)954-971
JournalCognition & Emotion
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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