Cruelty is exciting for some people

Being cruel to others can be pleasurable and exciting for some people, new research has found. Led by Psychological Scientist Erin Buckels of the University of British Columbia, the study revealed individuals who score high on a measure of sadism enjoy it when their actions result in other people being hurt.

The report has been published in Psychological Science – a journal of the Association for Psychological Science – and indicate that this type of sadism is not only real, but also more prevalent than many people think.

A total of 71 participants were involved in the research – which focused on personality and tolerance in challenging jobs – and it was shown that in addition to deriving pleasure from hurtful behaviours, some individuals are also willing to go the extra in mile to ensure somebody else suffers.

Ms Buckels stated: “Some find it hard to reconcile sadism with the concept of ‘normal’ psychological functioning, but our findings show that sadistic tendencies among otherwise well-adjusted people must be acknowledged.”

Chartered Psychologist Dr Julian Boon, University of Leicester, commented:

“‘In many ways these findings are not surprising. That some people are excited sexually and/or non-sexually by other people’s and animals’ helplessness has been known for centuries. It’s helplessness by the way not cruelty per se which is the stimulant – the latter being the means by which the former is engendered for satisfaction by the sadist.  

“Likewise it has been known for decades that such gratifications are on a continuum with all but the most well-disposed of us showing some elements of sado-maso traits. For example many would engage in a spot of schadenfreude when their major enemies get their come-uppance or come to grief in some way! Interesting field though.”


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