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Emotion. 2019 Aug 1. doi: 10.1037/emo0000652. [Epub ahead of print]

Accuracy and bias in the social perception of envy.

Author information

Department of Social Psychology.
Department of Personality Psychology and Psychological Assessment.
Information Center for Education.
Department of Psychology.


Research converges on the notion that when people feel envy, they disguise it toward others. This implies that a person's envy in a given situation cannot be accurately perceived by peers, as envy lacks a specific display that could be used as a perceptual cue. In contrast to this reasoning, research supports that envy contributes to the regulation of status hierarchies. If envy threatens status positions, people should be highly attentive to identify enviers. The combination of the two led us to expect that (a) state envy is difficult to accurately perceive in unacquainted persons and (b) dispositional enviers can be accurately identified by acquaintances. To investigate these hypotheses, we used actor-partner interdependence models to disentangle accuracy and bias in the perception of state and trait envy. In Study 1, 436 unacquainted dyad members competed against each other and rated their own and the partner's state envy. Perception bias was significantly positive, yet perception accuracy was nonsignificant. In Study 2, 502 acquainted dyad members rated their own and the partner's dispositional benign and malicious envy as well as trait authentic and hubristic pride. Accuracy coefficients were positive for dispositional benign and malicious envy and robust when controlling for trait authentic and hubristic pride. Moreover, accuracy for dispositional benign envy increased with the depth of the relationship. We conclude that enviers might be identifiable but only after extended contact and discuss how this contributes to research on the ambiguous experience of being envied. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).


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