University of Sussex
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I like it because it hurts you: on the association of everyday sadism, sadistic pleasure, and victim blaming

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Version 2 2023-09-14, 14:37
Version 1 2023-09-11, 09:35
journal contribution
posted on 2023-09-14, 14:37 authored by C Sassenrath, J Keller, D Stöckle, Rebekka KesbergRebekka Kesberg, YA Nielsen, S Pfattheicher
Past research on determinants of victim blaming mainly concentrated on individuals’ just-world beliefs as motivational process underlying this harsh reaction to others’ suffering. The present work provides novel insights regarding underlying affective processes by showing how individuals prone to derive pleasure from others’ suffering—individuals high in everyday sadism—engage in victim blaming due to increased sadistic pleasure and reduced empathic concern they experience. Results of three cross-sectional studies and one ambulatory assessment study applying online experience sampling method (ESM; overall N = 2,653) document this association. Importantly, the relation emerged over and above the honesty–humility, emotionality, extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and openness personality model (Study 1a), and other so-called dark traits (Study 1b), across different cultural backgrounds (Study 1c), and also when sampling from a population of individuals frequently confronted with victim–perpetrator constellations: police officers (Study 1d). Studies 2 and 3 highlight a significant behavioral correlate of victim blaming. Everyday sadism is related to reduced willingness to engage in effortful cognitive activity as individuals high (vs. low) in everyday sadism recall less information regarding victim–perpetrator constellations of sexual assault. Results obtained in the ESM study (Study 4) indicate that the relation of everyday sadism, sadistic pleasure, and victim blaming holds in everyday life and is not significantly moderated by interpersonal closeness to the blamed victim or impactfulness of the incident. Overall, the present article extends our understanding of what determines innocent victims’ derogation and highlights emotional mechanisms, societal relevance, and generalizability of the observed associations beyond the laboratory


Publication status

  • Published

File Version

  • Accepted version


Journal of Personality and Social Psychology




American Psychological Association (APA)

Department affiliated with

  • Psychology Publications

Full text available

  • Yes

Peer reviewed?

  • Yes