The New York Times:
Why envy? It seems to be the most useless of the deadly sins: excruciating to experience, shameful to admit, bereft of immediate pleasure or long-term benefits. To an evolutionary psychologist, there’s a certain logic to seducing thy neighbor’s wife or stealing his goods, but what’s the point of merely coveting them?
Philosophers have offered theories, but empirical evidence has been in short supply, maybe because envy is such an uncomfortable topic for everyone, including psychologists. Now, though, thanks to some experiments with envious students at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth and the University of Texas at Austin, we can see an upside of coveting — along with one new reason to have a commandment against it.
The researchers were looking for quintessential envy, which is distinct from jealousy. Envy involves a longing for what you don’t have, while jealousy is provoked by losing something to someone else. If you crave a wife like Angelina Jolie, you’re envious of Brad Pitt; if you’re upset about losing your wife to him, you’re jealous.
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