In this research, we explored and demonstrated a relatively implicit and covert means of undermining envied targets—namely, helping them in a way that retains their future dependence, rather than in a way that increases their autonomy. In four studies, we varied our envy manipulations, measured the extent to which these manipulations trigger malicious motivations, and examined the consequences in terms of intended (Studies 1–2) and actual (Studies 3–4) helping behaviors. In Study 4, we also measured and tested the role of individual differences in terms of proneness to malicious versus benign envy. Taken together, our findings suggest that the extent to which envy toward superior versus neutral peers activates malicious motivations negatively impacts peoples’ willingness to provide these superior peers with help, particularly with autonomous help.
- Autonomous help
- Social comparison