Peanut Butter

Delight Dismay/ Investigate

Recently, a friend of mine had a package of peanut butter crackers and just wanted a snack. However, as he began to inspect his “peanut butter” crackers, he noticed one fatal flaw with the package: there was no peanut butter.

He began to furiously fling the crackers out of the bag one at a time as if he were making it rain crackers. And disappointment. We all laughed; what else could we do? The entire package had absolutely no peanut butter!

This incident brings up the idea of schadenfreude, or the act of feeling pleasure at someone else’s misfortune. Literally translated, it means “damage-joy.” This begs the question: why do we laugh at others when bad things happen to them?

According to one popular theory called The Superiority Theory of Humor, we laugh in order to assert our dominance over the other person. Based on studies done by Leiden University, located in the Netherlands, this feeling is amplified by those with lower self-esteem. They had to read about a high-achieving student trying to get a job, and then about a tragic setback they faced. Those who felt initially threatened found it more funny than those who felt no threat, supporting the idea that they needed to assert their dominance. Many different studies support this idea as well.

So I guess I can conclude that I desire to have a dominance over my friend through the power of peanut butter.


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