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The niche of envy: Conceptualization, coping strategies, and the ontogenesis of envy in cultural psychology

Sage Publications Ltd.
Publication Date
  • Culture
  • Development
  • Embodiment
  • Emotion
  • Envy
  • Self-Consciousness
  • Anthropology
  • Psychology
  • Religious Science
  • Social Sciences


Envy is the religion of the mediocre. It comforts them, it responds to the worries that gnaw at them and finally it rots their souls, allowing them to justify their meanings and their greed until they believe these to be virtues.—Carlos Ruiz Zafón <br/> <br/>“The niche of envy” is a cross-disciplinary attempt to capture and understand the complex and self-conscious emotion of envy as unfolded within social relationships and cultural settings. One of our main interests concerns how children come to understand envy in ontogenesis. Accordingly, we review existing theoretical approaches to understanding envy and introduce preliminary data about children’s understanding of envy. This paper consists of three sections. In the first section, we define envy by introducing the conditions and components that form part of it. We emphasize the fact that envy is a complex and embodied emotion, which embraces a triadic relationship, social comparison, and inequality. In this section, we also introduce social conditions that may facilitate envy and its consequences, such as hostility and aggression. The second section deals with coping strategies for envy. Here, we integrate research from different disciplines, e.g., socio-cultural, psychological, and anthropological research. Finally, in the third section, we introduce a cross-cultural and developmental view of how envy is embodied. We briefly address and offer a critique of Klein’s psychoanalytic view and present recent results from our cross-cultural studies of the ontogenesis of understanding envy. <br/>

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