Date of Graduation

Spring 5-21-2022

Document Type

Restricted Thesis - USF access only

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Economics


College of Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Bruce Wydick


People sometimes feel they are superior or inferior to others. And when people consider themselves to be inferior to others, they sometimes feel envy. On the other hand, when people believe they are superior to others, they tend to become more selfish. Thus, we address three specific questions through online experiments. For Experiment 1, we rigged a game so that all subjects will lose. We find that subjects who feel others are not undeserving, but feel low personal control themselves, show malicious envy economic behavior most frequently. But this result is not general, it is limited to those who performed well. We find the opposite result when their performance is poor. Experiment 2 also focuses on subjects’ behavior when they are in a position of inferiority, but also focuses on a belief. We find that subjects primed with unconditional self-acceptance show slightly weaker malicious envy behavior and that there is a strong correlation between unconditional self-acceptance and malicious envy. In Experiment 3, we put the subjects in a position of superiority and use a dictator game. The result of Experiment 3 shows that subjects primed with anti-meritocracy are more likely to share their rewards than do subjects primed with pro-meritocracy.

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