The joy of pain: A gloating account of negative electronic word-of-mouth communication following an organizational setback

Jacob Hornik, Rinat Shaanan Satchi, Matti Rachamim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Purpose: Recent research on word-of-mouth (WOM) has presented consistent evidence on the importance of secondary WOM (sWOM) on online user-generated content (UGC) and on diffusion of positive and negative commercial information. The purpose of this paper is to investigate what motivates consumers to spread, via electronic WOM communication, negative information about commercial entities adversity using malicious verbal narratives. Based on concepts related to the joy of pain (schadenfreude) and gloating behavior the authors propose a set of hypotheses designed to test two key moderators (perceived deservingness and entity’s status) as well as the process of spiteful dissemination like content assimilation, dissemination time and duration. Design/methodology/approach: The research consists on a series of four studies using different research methods (surveys and experiments) and a mix of quantitative and qualitative analyses. Findings: Results show that actively communicating about others’ adversity (i.e. gloating behavior) provides an outlet to the passive observation of others’ adversity (i.e. schadenfreude feelings). Results indicate that schadenfreude and gloating are linked to the perceived deservingness of a commercial entity and entity status (the tall poppy syndrome). Results also show that malicious feelings and gloating behavior cause consumers to disseminate information more widely, more rapidly, for a longer period and frequently distort its content. Research limitations/implications: The findings contribute to literature on WOM by introducing an approach that highlights the potential negative effects of WOM on the dissemination of commercial information that might harm the relevant commercial entity’s reputation and goodwill. Originality/value: This study illuminates the prevalence of negative rhetoric in WOM and supports the theory schadenfreude motives as a trigger for gloating behavior in the form of disseminating negative, malicious and intense WOM regarding commercial setbacks. This research is the first to examine and demonstrates that when it comes to WOM communication, schadenfreude feelings and gloating behavior might play a central role in the dissemination of negative information and the two constructs’ role in understanding infostorms, the sudden flow of large quantities of negative WOM using strong gleeful exultation. This study is the first to examine these phenomena in the business setting.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)82-103
Number of pages22
JournalInternet Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 7 Jan 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited.


  • Electronic word-of-mouth (eWOM)
  • Gloating behaviour
  • Schadenfreude feelings
  • Sentiment analysis


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