Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 42, Issue 1, pp 90–102 | Cite as

Harmful fun: Pranks and sadistic motivation

Original Paper


Two studies tested whether pranking is a context for observing sadistic motivation, understood as a compensatory/restorative response to insults to the self that manifests as displaced aggression. A disrespect sensitivity/anger rumination (DSAR) index outperformed a measure of dispositional sadism in predicting sadistic thoughts and emotions congruent with sadistic motivation across the span of a recalled prank (Study 1). DSAR also predicted greater sadistic affect/motivation and greater self-elevation/victim derogation among prank viewers when the prospect of significant long-term harm befalling prank victims was salient, but not when harm was minimized (Study 2). Fueled by displaced hostility, enjoyment of others’ experienced harm in pranking contexts indeed appears sadistic.


Prank Sadism Displaced aggression 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologySt. Jerome’s UniversityWaterlooCanada

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