The Bad Can Be Good: When Benign and Malicious Envy Motivate Goal Pursuit

Anthony Salerno, Juliano Laran, Chris Janiszewski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations

Abstract

Benign and malicious envy are a consequence of an unfavorable upward comparison to another individual (i.e., a negative self-other discrepancy). Benign (malicious) envy occurs when people believe the envied individual deserves (does not deserve) his/her advantage. Prior research has shown that benign envy motivates a person to address the self-other discrepancy via self-improvement, whereas malicious envy does not. This research shows that both types of envy, not just benign envy, can motivate self-improvement, provided that the opportunities to do so occur outside the envy-eliciting domain. Benign envy increases the accessibility of the belief that effort determines whether people are rewarded; hence, it motivates process-focused goal pursuit and the use of products that emphasize effort-dependent self-improvement. Malicious envy increases the accessibility of the belief that the effort does not determine whether people are rewarded; hence, it motivates outcome-focused goal pursuit and the use of products that emphasize effort-independent self-improvement. Implications and potential extensions in the areas of envy, self-conscious emotions, and goals are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)388-405
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Consumer Research
Volume46
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 1 2019

Keywords

  • benign envy
  • goal pursuit
  • malicious envy
  • self-conscious emotion
  • self-improvement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Marketing

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