Some Curious Facts About Envy

Envy, as far as humans are concerned, is a universal characteristic. Here, we identify some curious and fascinating facts about this emotion.
Some Curious Facts About Envy

Last update: 13 September, 2021

The first curious fact about envy is that it’s one of those passions that’s unique to being human. Indeed, everything points to the fact that only humans experience envy. Because, while animals are territorial and jealous of others’ attributes, they also have a tendency to side with the strong, rather than envy them.

There are many crimes motivated by this unspeakable passion. In fact, it’s from this idea that we find our next curious piece of information. It’s the fact that everyone feels this emotion at some time or another, but they rarely admit it. Indeed, it’s an emotion with a rather bad reputation. As a matter of fact, when it motivates behavior, it tends to do so in disguise.

Although envy is universal, there are certain circumstances that tend to generate it. For example, any kind of environment in which there are hierarchies and competition, as well as inequalities, helps to create feelings of envy. Therefore situations where solidarity exists tend to protect against this rather unpleasant emotion. Let’s take a look at some more curious facts about it.

“ He who envies others does not obtain peace of mind.”

-Buddha-

Boy envying a coworker

Curiosities about envy

One curious fact about envy is that it’s usually more intense among “friends”, family, and close colleagues. Indeed, while enemies hate us and wish us ill for many reasons, they don’t necessarily envy us. As a matter of fact, they openly declare their rejection and to that extent, they’re expressing their anger in a way that might be said to be healthier than envy.

However, with family and friends, it’s different. If you’re close to someone, you habitually witness their achievements. Furthermore, you’re usually immersed in the same hierarchy and compete for the same privileges or recognitions. Therefore, the conditions are in place for the generation of envy.

As a matter of fact, the first crime in Judeo-Christian history was motivated by envy. Furthermore, it occurred between two brothers, Cain and Abel, who worshiped the same God.

We should point out that the envious person doesn’t necessarily always want what the person they envy has. Even though this would appear to be the most logical explanation. After all, they’re apparently lacking something they desire that the other person has. You would think, therefore, that by getting this certain something, the hostility would end.

However, what really defines the envious is the desire for the other to do badly. Indeed, they’re not so bothered about what they have, but rather what they enjoy. For instance, if they get recognition for what they do, particularly from a figure in authority.

Woman with envy

Crimes of envy

Another curious fact about envy is that it has in itself a great potential to unleash vile behaviors and even crimes. One such case is that of the famous Marcus Junius Brutus, Julius Caesar’s conspirator and murderer. Both characters met on the battlefield, one victorious (Julius Caesar) and the other defeated (Brutus).

Julius Caesar spared Brutus’s life and he went over to the victor’s side. From that moment on, he received the favors of the ruler. He even became Caesar’s favorite. However, this didn’t stop him from getting involved in a plot to kill his benefactor. It’s clear that Brutus’s actions were motivated by envy since there was no doubt that he would ultimately be Julius Caesar’s successor. Therefore, there was absolutely no reason to kill him.

Another illustrative case was the murder of John Lennon. The former Beatle’s killer, Mark Chapman, went so far as to say “I assassinated him (…)  because he was very, very, very famous and that’s the only reason and I was very, very, very, very much seeking self-glory…” In this case, it’s clear that Chapman envied Lennon’s fame and this precipitated his crime.

Revealing investigations

Dr. Hidehiko Takahash of the Department of Molecular Neuroimaging at the National Institute of Radiological Sciences in Japan conducted a study in which he discovered that envy, in general, produces suffering. However, it also involves moments of pleasure. They can happen when the envied person is doing badly and, especially, when they lose what makes them an object of envy.

The study found that satisfaction with the misfortune of others is capable of increasing the levels of oxytocin and dopamine, two hormones associated with happiness.

Another curious fact about envy is that, when someone feels it, the anterior cingulate cortex is activated in the dorsal brain nodules. While the failure of the envied can stimulate the ventral striatum nucleus.

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  • Carrillo, G. N., Morillas, A. M. B., Segura, I. V., & Expósito, F. (2016). ¿Qué es la envidia? Cien. Cogn. (Granada), 10(3), 70-73.