Why jealousy can make you popular

We're more likely to help others if we think they are envious of us, says new research

It’s strange but true: Psychologists have found that we are nicer to people if we suspect that they are jealous of us. And it’s all because we’re scared of ‘malicious envy’.

Previous research suggests that jealousy can be divided into benign and malicious envy; the former is expressed in the motivation to improve oneself, while the latter is personified by wanting to bring a successful person down.

Niels van de Ven, one of the Dutch researchers from Tilburg University, said: ‘In anthropology, they say if you are envied, you might act more socially because you try to appease those envious people.’

The researchers conducted a number of lab experiments, where volunteers were asked to give time-consuming advice to a potentially envious person.

The findings, published in the journal of the Association for Psychological Science suggest that people who had reason to think they would be the target of malicious envy were more likely to take the time to give advice than targets of benign envy.

A further experiment showed that when a researcher dropped a number of erasers on the floor as the volunteers were leaving the room, those who thought they would be maliciously envied were more likely to help pick them up.

The researchers said: ‘This fear of envy can encourage us to behave in ways that improve the social interactions of the group.’

Do you have a personal story that confirms this study? Have you befriended someone who you know is envious of your life? Share your experience by posting a comment below.

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