What makes envy hostile: Perceived injustice, or a frustrated search for an explanation?
Envy often manifests as hostility or derogation of the superior individual. Two experiments investigated whether perceptions of injustice shape such hostility (in the envier). In Experiment 1, responses of participants to hypothetical scenarios showed that people experience more envious hostility toward another individual when their inferior outcomes are unfairly (compared to fairly) determined, and that judgments of situational fairness mediated this relation. In Experiment 2, participants received bogus feedback about the superiority of another. Participants' reports of envious hostility were not significantly different across levels of fairness. However, perceptions of fairness correlated with envious reactions. Both experiments employed an external agent as the perpetrator of injustice. Anger toward this agent strongly predicted envious reactions. Taken together, the data suggest perceived fairness does play a role in envious hostility.