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Why Do People Enjoy or Like Watching Others Suffer


Dark side of humans?

I just read about this disturbing news - about a teen who killed himself before a live Internet audience. The more disturbing part being that the majority of the live audience apparently egged him on. Some of them cracked jokes apparently. Now, this is not the first time this has happened. I remember reading about something similar a while ago. I know the question I've asked is quite loaded and perhaps uncomfortable to consider. But, the reason I ask is because I feel it needs to be discussed and studied. Perhaps, there is a dark side to us humans that we tend to smoothen over. Could it be that some humans or most humans enjoy watching death or enjoy pain being inflicted on others?

If we dwelve into history, certainly the Romans were morbidly fascinated by the gladiatorial contests with all of the blood and gore that such contests entailed. By all accounts, they enjoyed watching the butchery and savagery of humans being killed by beasts and fellow humans alike. I wonder if the gladiatorial games would be as successful as they were if it involved no blood at all.

Also, through the ages, public executions seem to have been quite an attraction, with people traveling vast distances to take part in the proceedings. In fact, this attraction towards public executions isn't medieval either. In America (in relatively modern times), hangings were by all accounts carried out in a circus-like atmosphere. Apparently, that was one of the reasons why they had to look for alternative methods of executing people. It was much too embarrassing to the authorities.

Modern-Age Equivalents of Gladitorial Games, Beheadings

Wrestling matches or extreme fighting matches are perhaps our modern-age equivalents to gladiatorial contests, and it seems the audiences like blood on the mat. In wrestling in particular, it seems there are more matches that end with some blood involved as compared to the past and the audience seems to want more of such extreme matches. They cheer on during such contests.

What about today's terrorists? The likes of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda affiliated groups? Their preferred form of execution seems to be beheadings - that most barbaric, cruel, inhumane way of killing a fellow human being. One would have thought that the act of beheading a fellow human being would elicit some sort of regret, sorrow, at least not joy! But, they seem so happy to behead a fellow human being - albeit a human being that they think of as an "infidel" - which in no way can justify that barbaric act.

Its not just your average terrorist though who can commit acts that cause suffering to his/her fellow human beings. What we had at Abu Ghraib was an example of that - American soldiers doing the worst kind of atrocities to their fellow human beings - so what if they are your enemies or perceived enemies - is that justifiable?

Who are these men and women who commit such cruel, inhuman acts that cause suffering to their fellow human beings? You might think they are some freaks, but are they? Wish they were, but they are just like you and me - the average person! So, does inflicting pain on others or watching others in pain excite us, or compel us to watch?

It seems to me that people perhaps derive some kind of voyeuristic pleasure watching others die or suffer. Even today, in places where public executions are carried out - lots of people turn out to watch. Why? Can it just be passed off as curiosity? Something to think about!


William on November 15, 2013:

I take slight offense to the person who claimed atheists have no morals and would enjoy people dying. I am an atheist and violence of any sort disrurbs me and I cannot understand why people love violence or torture or seeing others tortured so much. When I was a child I was physically and verbally abused. I quickly became fascinated with horror films and as a child did have a sense of excitement when watching fictitious characters in movies being tortured. However, as I grew older I kept lending myself to situations where I would inevitably be the victim and would let a lot of guys I dated mistreat me, because I think that I thought I deserved it. It was not until I finally sought help that I realized this pattern. Now, all forms of violence really bother me and I am quite sensitive when it comes to witnessing others enjoying these violent acts being displayed. It is something I feel I see far too often in comments from people or just their reactions. I agree with whoever said that human beings think they are way more important than they are, or superior to other species and it really saddens me. I have given up on trying to make peace with violent individuals as it only entices them to shout out "he doesn't like violence!!? Let's kill him!!" That may be an over dramatic statement , but essentially that is how it feels. I am convinced humanity will be doomed in the long run so I just try to always remain peaceful and only surround myself by others who share a like mind. A lot of atheists I know are some I the most heartfelt and giving individuals. Not to say all Christians are hateful because I know some fairly amazing ones, but the reason I came here was because I saw an article where a man was accused of a crime and a lot of responses were "string him up! Kill him! Let's watch!" With "God Bless!" added to the end. I think most people, in general , have a God-like mindset, meaning they think they are so superior they enjoy watching others suffer like ants. Whereas the individuals in life that have the Jesus (peaceful) mentality , are often given the short end of the stick in life and beaten down by those who have the God-like mentality.

G on May 03, 2013:

"Look, people are sexually excited watching other people being tortured or executed. I find that exciting. Tell me I'm not wrong."

And this sounds psychologically healthy and moral...how? You know you live in a fucked up world when people tear down others for a transitory ego boost. Where's the empathy, the emotional intelligence? Why should I respect people who act like literal animals?

ianfutcher on November 11, 2012:

I've just come across this thread whilst searching the net for an answer as to why i was just watching terrible gore videos. In one video two guys get decapitated with a chainsaw (yeah, i know, WTF). Another involved the aftermath of a traffic accident and the scenes were just too much to describe. There were many others to watch but i just felt weird, almost sick and to be honest i have seen these kind of things before albeit briefly and despite knowing what to expect i still watched them until i could no longer take it. Now i just feel a bit odd and guilty for having watched this stuff, but thankfully i took absolutely no pleasure or anything positive what so ever from having viewed them. I'm just wondering why i clicked on them in the first place?

Emptytproll on July 09, 2012:

Although I've never seen a live killing or suicide, I quite enjoy watching videos of death. Particularly, I love watching executions due to the fact it can give you great insight on what exactly a person is like when they are about to die. There will never be anything quite like watching a gangbanger cry when he sees a knife coming at his neck and he cant do anything about it. But to answer WHY I like it personally is mostly do to my intense interest in psychology, both of the killer and the person being killed. I like reading the motivations and the events leading up to it. I like seeing rage and passion in a good cutting.

IIIII on June 22, 2012:

since you are basing your views on "Atheistic" value no wonder you get a rise out of watching others suffer

But it shows that humans, even humans who are wrongly thought of as ‘primitive’, had the forethought and intelligence to see remote ends, which is something no animal can do.

Simplistic on June 22, 2012:

If you like to watch humans suffer then get help !! Researchers believe most of humanity is insane - where a fraction stand against all violence or even watching it ! I for one get no pleasures out of watching a person die !! Some do and those people are twisted if not mental ...

Balthesar on January 22, 2012:

Look, people are sexually excited watching other people being tortured or executed. I find that exciting. Tell me I'm not worng.

Shil1978 (author) on November 16, 2011:

Alisse, thank you for stopping by and commenting. Well, humans do seem to enjoy watching wrestling shows with chair shots and what have you. They wouldn't show blood, if there wasn't an audience for it.

Wrestling fans seem to enjoy all that blood and gore - TV shows are far tamer, but yes, I think if there weren't an audience for it, there wouldn't be shows that show violence.

Alisse on November 16, 2011:

I started looking this up when I realized all the crime shows on TV. I was wondering if the reason people watched was to see others commit atrocious crimes.

Thegoldenending on October 09, 2011:

Group conformity I believe..rarely would someone do such atrocity alone.I've seen someone laugh at the suffering of others on tv..and I survey why did they so.They apparently got no idea why..I perceive that its just humanity instinct trying to survive in a crowds.The sad part is that if you're actually interview all of them individually..its quite possible for none of them(not even 1 originator) to know why they're laughing at the suffering.The same could be said about funerals..if you ask why they're crying about the persons death.They usually make up things or traits about the person that don't exist..just so they can cry over a fake persona of a person?Just fruit for thinking

Bjorn on September 08, 2011:

i was just searching the web as to why i find it good when i see other in pain i.e. whenever someone is hurt and starts crying i find amusing whenever they get angry its funny for me whenever they are in pain i feel like it brings me this feelings that's just "satisfying" in a way, maybe that woud shed some light as i would be more of a different human being then the rest of the people who responded on this collom

Yo on September 08, 2011:

The only reason I will ever watch (only suicides, never pain inflicted on other people or accidents) is because of my mental issue and it reminds me how painful it would be to die and stops me from doing it myself.

I'm not saying this is justified but sometimes it does help.

I don't particularly 'enjoy' it though like some people seem to.

Shil1978 (author) on September 07, 2011:


I agree with your reasoning. As evolved as we may think we are, we are really not!! We still have our ancestors' blood lust - just that now - that side of us has been desensitized by society. It doesn't take much for that side of us to rise up and reveal itself in all its ugliness.

Thank you, valiant, for stopping by and sharing your view on this subject. Yes, this article is quite old - but I am not, I keep in touch with my writings, so was a pleasure to have someone react to this article after such a long while :)

valiant93 on September 07, 2011:

I know this article is a little old but I'll put in my two cents anyway.

I believe that people satisfy an ancient primordial instinct when they watch people suffer or die. It allows us to believe we have power over that person by being the individual that is causing them that pain or witnessing it, which was a main part of our being back in ancient times (alpha male beating up on a challenger with NO OTHER animal intervening). I also think apart of this death witnessing aspect of our species is due to modern influences which also stoke those ancient fires of blood-lust. The subject of witnessing actual death is taboo in our society. How many of you have actually witnessed raw violence or death? Not many I'd say, so to be given an opportunity to experience it is one that only a few would pass by whilst others would chose to stay out of curiosity and a once in a lifetime screening of such an occurrence.

Food for thought...

Mind Surgeon on December 23, 2010:

I view gore sites occasionally, only because it reminds me that I'm mortal, mortality I find is often ignored until someone drops dead, then it creeps up and slaps you on the face and says hi, I don't enjoy it but I gain insight into my own innate fragility, I'd rather be perpetually aware of my mortality than not aware, it makes me stronger I think, mentally anyway.

I think in some cases violence stimulates a suppressed desire for power and control in certain individuals, you can see it reflected in games, sports and movies, the viewer may mentally project themselves onto the character or person dishing out the ass-whooping so they can vicariously experience a sense of superiority over his victims/opponents, like a sort of mental simulation, when it comes to reality it's probably the same thing, although I'm guessing it would require a severe lack of empathy to derive joy from seeing pain being inflicted on a fellow human, or maybe it's enjoyable to those who percieve it as justice. (Thinking back to the cheering crowds as Ted Bundy was about to be executed).

As for enjoying pain being inflicted accidentally onto other people, I think it just reflects our own ability to make better decisions, we feel smarter for noticing the gaping hole in the ground while some guy doesn't and pays the price by falling on his face *chuckles*.

Shil1978 (author) on July 29, 2010:

Thank you Midasfx for stopping by and commenting. We do have something to think about, as in why we seem to enjoy those bits. Yes, they are funny to watch but why is it funny? Could there be a deeper reason? Food for thought, for sure!!

Midasfx on July 29, 2010:

I remember the best part of a skateboarding video is the end where they show all the bloopers of kids falling down stairs. Or getting sacked on rails or trying to do a trick off something really high up and they land wrong and break something or maybe land on their face. lol

we are sick. I think this youtube video speaks volumes!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VDdN_b6TjYo ^_^ enjoy

Always Greener on July 28, 2010:

Weird, weird and extremely weird story about the teen who killed himself.

Jezebelle on July 04, 2010:

Huh, I tried meditation before but it doesn't help me. And yoga just isn't for me. Though I have never regretted anything I have done, even I know that it's a bit wrong.

Shil1978 (author) on July 03, 2010:

Jez, thank you for stopping by and commenting. Yes, I agree in that every human has a dark side, just that some humans seem to keep the dark side in check better than others!!

You are very young now and your emotions could be quite confusing for you to understand. If you feel excessive angst at others, would suggest you learn meditation.

It is a great way to understand your emotions and control it. Often times, giving in to basic emotions can make you do things that you'd regret later.

Jezebelle on July 03, 2010:

Huh. Just a couple months of ago this what I wondered, just was to lazy to do much about the thought. I admit, I have I dark side though I have never used it... Or at least not physically. I generally enjoy watching people get hurt whether then are actually real or not. (Like a fictional character) And I verbally harm my enemies because well, they are basically asking for it but I'm not too sure if there's really anything wrong with that. I sort of feel satisfied when they shut up and either A)Go cry for no real reason, or B)Leave me alone. Believe me, I hate it when I see my friends hurt but if it's someone I don't know nor do I really care about, I won't generally care to see them hurt. I mean, I might want to... But I just don't.

I guess I believe that every human has a dark side, just some have it more then others. I guess it really depends. Though, -Insert nervous laugh- I think it's sort of wrong for me to feel like this because I'm a pre-teen. >.>;;

Shil1978 (author) on June 24, 2010:

Nice to hear from you again Alicia. It was my pleasure responding to your interesting comments. So, thank you :)

aliciajadebrowne from I am where I am, and that's all you need to know. on June 24, 2010:

Few, good =o I don't want to have a dark side...Thanks:) That's so true, too. We shouldn't just give in to our "dark sides" like that...

Yeah, I would say that, but some people give us a bad name in some ways, others in other ways...So basically all of us put together, including all the MAJOR negative things, (obviously we make mistakes, just talking about the major ones) pretty much, generalizing it, of course, the whole human race gives us a bad name.

But thanks for tellign me that, though =)

Thank you for responding, again! As I too enjoy reading what you have to say about things. :)

Shil1978 (author) on June 24, 2010:

Alicia, I never thought about this too. However, my curiosity was aroused when I read the incident I mentioned in my hub and also when I wondered about violent events and some human reactions to them.

I am much like you - I can't bear to see suffering of any kind. Violence disgusts me and I think as a species we should know much better than to give in to our basic animal instincts.

No, don't worry, you don't have a dark side - many folks don't think about topics such as these until they encounter them!!

You don't have to hate the whole human race Alicia :) Just hate the few who give the human race a bad name!!

Thanks again for stopping by. As with your previous comment on my other hub, I had a great time reading your perspective. Thank you :)

aliciajadebrowne from I am where I am, and that's all you need to know. on June 24, 2010:

I never really thought about that! I hate pain and suffering and death, I can't bear to watch it, I hate it, and it all needs to stop right now. I've ever enjoyed it, so maybe I don't have a dark side! This is horrible! But maybe the fact that I never really seemed to notice particularly that trait about most people...Would that be kind of like a small "dark side"?

I just don't understand people...Hey! Another great, justified reason why I can continue hating the human race! (In general)

choodie on May 29, 2010:

well i do admit i like to see certain people in pain, mainly people i dislike and hate,when i do see other people who i'm not related to i really do think its funny and quite enjoyable but still i cant seem to laugh at my love ones pain.also i dislike seeing animals in pain,its disturbing and painful somehow.

Shil1978 (author) on May 24, 2010:

Hi Ryan,

Thanks for stopping by this hub and sharing your perspective. Your story just reinforces my belief that some people do get some kind of pleasure/satisfaction watching others die or in pain.

To me, its very disturbing. I am not sure what the psychological reasons for these are, as I've not studied this from a psychological perspective. I do hope though that you can bring yourself to be more sensitive to human pain and suffering. The fact that you feel guilty about this is good.

I'd suggest doing meditation and yoga. Perhaps, that would help. Thanks for sharing your story.

Ryan on May 24, 2010:

I'm sorry to admit this but I do find others' pain and death satiating. I wasn't always like this, and I do feel quilty about it. I'm sorry. =( and NO i am NOT joking

Shil1978 (author) on April 22, 2010:

Thank you for your very kind words. You are a very intelligent person yourself, Tamara. The purpose of life is to question and understand and learn, rather than "just be" or "just exist," that's what I've believed in all through my life!!

Thank you again, Tamara, for enriching this hub with your valuable insights. It feels good to know there are people like you who like to question like me and reflect upon some of these issues!!

Tamara on April 22, 2010:

You are very welcome. You are a very intelligent individual my friend, I hope that you continue to search for answer to this very confusing world. We need more people in this world like you to help untangle the riddles of life. I would love to see more of your questions and options out there on the internet to help people in this world stop and think over the actions that they are making and how these actions are shaping our world.

Shil1978 (author) on April 22, 2010:

I agree Tamara. We are no superior to many animals in that sense. In fact, one can argue that many species are far more "humane" - ironically.

I do hope, like you, that we are able to raise our children in a much more humane world and without having them be exposed to the violence that we have seen in our lives.

Humans won't evolve in the true sense unless they evolve the humanity within them. Only technological progress isn't progress or evolution, true progress only comes when we stop butchering fellow human beings and learn to give up our primitive insticts.

Thanks for your insightful comments! Much appreciated!!

Tamara on April 21, 2010:

Yes, indeed. Humans are creatures to believe that they are superior and that they have no faults. Sadly, this is not true and we can see it in every day life. There is the idea of perfection in human, when really it is only corruption.

The thing is, though, that no one can really understand why humans do what they do. There are just some things that you can not explain. There will always be the questions that are unanswered, but maybe someday individuals can learn to not exhibit such harshness upon there fellow peers.

I, myself, have seen to much violence in this world to last a lifetime. The sad thing about it all is now our generation is creating violent video games and television show that our children are observing.

Not long ago, I was reading the newspaper and had found an article about a nine year old boy who had been playing Grand Theft Auto, and believe that the game, itself, was real. He had taken his mother's car and went for a joyride. Sadly, this outcome was not like the game. The boy was killed after he had driven into a semi-truck that had been driving by.

It is reasonable to realize that our generation may be to far into the idea of violence that there is no longer any help for us. However, that does not mean that we have to corrupt our children, who have not witnessed the world for themselves. Hopefully, there will be a change to stop children from having the access to such violent and dangerous things.

Shil1978 (author) on April 20, 2010:

Very interesting perspective Tamara. You know there was an interesting study of chimps (can't remember where I read that now), but it was in regards to how chimps behave amongst themselves. It talked about the apparent brutality exhibited by chimps towards their fellow chimps.

The researchers concluded that humans exhibit the same innate behavior patterns. If given an opportunity, seemingly normal humans are capable of the worst brutalities against their fellow human beings.

We, of course, have many cases of genocides, etc. So, perhaps, this is something that humans have not evolved enough to overcome. We haven't really become 'humane' - there is a dark, dark side to us humans still, which gets exposed all the while.

Tamara on April 20, 2010:

It depends on the situation. I am sure there are people out there who would enjoy in seeing a certain individual suffer or even die in front of them. Though this is not just an everyday idea in the minds of most people. Usually people who want to see pain or suffrage have, themselves, endured a great deal of pain and sorrow. In the end, these people believe that there is no other way for this other individual to suffer the same way they have, unless they can physically hurt them. All humans have a sense of pleasure, or so to say, in the pain that another feels. This idea may seem wrong, but it is a natural habit that is looked down upon in society. However, there are also other factors that play into consideration when one is enjoying another person's pain. They are commonly exhibited when an individual feel joy of not being the one who is suffering. Usually, this does not result in pleasure or any form of joy. Often times humans feel pity for those who are suffering, but there are special cases. There are many people out there who would want this fact to be untrue, however humans can not deny that there are those certain emotions that take us over at times. Sometimes it may not be enjoying the pain of other, but maybe even enjoying pain inflicted on oneself. It all depends on how our minds react to certain situations and what this may mean about ourselves. Please do not see this as response as an excuse to the idea that is alright to put people in pain or kill individuals that you do not like. For I myself do not believe in such a thing, however, I also believe that all humans react differently in different situations and sometimes there are people who are pushed over the edge. I hope this helps to your question.

terribaddie2323 on March 29, 2010:

this is a good thread u even got me(a person who finds joy outta seeing people in pain or death)to tell you the truth im not sure why its so fun to watch the thing that's weird is that im not one of those people who also enjoy animal abuse(which im against very much i monthly donate money to shelters and member of peda) its just a mental thing we sadistic people like i cant explain i talk to a lot of doctors about it the only resonable reason i can think of is a lot of sadistic people have no friends no social life and we tend to hate people and usally have an abusive past or traumatic expernice and when we see them die we merley think of them as ants or just a toy and there useless to us and our hatred for people may carry out in laughter watching them die in pain

Shil1978 (author) on March 24, 2010:

Thanks Meman for dropping by and for your comments.

Meman on March 24, 2010:

Hmmm...interesting thread.

Ive been researching this topic ever since I heard the song 'Vicarous' by Tool. The lyrics focus on this topic and it got me thinking. I would always consider myself to be against that sort of thing, but this is interesting...

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