In the Pixar animated film "Inside Out," most of the plot plays out inside protagonist Riley's head, where five emotions - Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust and Anger - direct her behavior. The film was released to glowing reviews. But director Pete Docter later admitted that he always regretted that one emotion didn't make the cut: Schadenfreude. Schadenfreude, which literally means "harm joy" in German, is the peculiar pleasure people derive from others' misfortune. You might feel it when the career of a high-profile celebrity craters, when a particularly noxious criminal is locked up or when a rival sporting team gets vanquished. Psychologists have long struggled with how to best understand, explain and study the emotion: It arises in such a wide range of situations that it can seem almost impossible to come up with some sort of unifying framework. Yet that's exactly what my colleagues and I have attempted to do.
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