You know that feeling.

When you screamed after realising who exactly screwed over Shiv, Roman and Kendall Roy's chances at leading Waystar Royco on the Season 3 finale of HBO's "Succession." 

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When you gawked and guffawed at Christine Quinn crashing Mary Fitzgerald and Jason Oppenheim's dog birthday party on Netflix's "Selling Sunset." 

Watching rich and famous people crumble on TV, real or fictional, is an appetising pastime for many.

"I like watching rich people and their problems because it’s escapism with stakes," says reality TV fan Ana Vineuza.

Experts and fans say we can't look away because of schadenfreude – finding joy in others' hardships – and the ever-tantalising appeal of a good story.

"There's pleasure in watching rich people who seem to have it all and these shows remind us that, well, they really don't have it all," says Elizabeth Cohen, an assistant professor at West Virginia University who researches psychology of media and pop culture. "And maybe they don't even necessarily deserve it all."

A psychological theory called "social comparison" is behind our love for these shows, Cohen says. It posits that humans will always try and compare themselves to other people to figure out where they fit in the world. If you perceive someone is "better" than you, you fall into upward social comparison.

"The problem with upward social comparison is that it can be positive, but it makes you feel like you're not where you need to be," Cohen says. "So it can be motivational, but it can also make you feel bad about yourself."

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The flip side is downward social comparison, where you consume media solely to look down on others. TV clues us in that even the rich and famous aren't so perfect – and audiences evidently revel in that.

"You watch these ridiculously wealthy people who have in a lot of ways, these enviable lives, but then they're not," says Erica Chito-Childs, a sociology professor at Hunter College and The Graduate Center, CUNY.

Though both fictional and reality TV might invoke a similar "I'm glad that's not me" response, knowing something is real might make that reaction more visceral. That's part of why reality TV is such a turnoff for some.

"Reality shows tend to be more cringey," Cohen says. "When, you know it's real and you see people embarrass themselves, it feels different than when you can dismiss it as just being fiction."

While watching rich people on reality shows may be the phenomenon du jour, shows like "Survivor" and "Jersey Shore" have been successful reality series too.

"We like watching other people behave in strange and bad ways," says Robert Thompson, founding director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at the Newhouse School of Public Communications Syracuse University. "We like watching other human beings melt down, regardless of their income status."

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It's all part of what makes a good story. "There seems to be a narrative thread that we like watching people make this climb to wealth and status," Thompson says. "But once they actually get there, one of the only narrative threads left is to watch them fall. And we do get a lot of schadenfreude pleasure out of that if you look at a lot of the examples of stories that we tell."

When they're real people, it's even easier to mock. "Let's face it, reality TV is very much a genre that depends upon pleasure generated by mockery of those on the show," Thompson says.

But a lot of people watching shows that present the rich as ridiculous still want to emulate them, or at least find them enjoyable and not necessarily mockable.

"My core group of girlfriends have all moved to different parts of the country and I crave those close and complicated female friendships," says self-described "Housewives" aficionado Bijal Patel. "It scratches an itch. And also my friends and I watch the shows together and it’s a lot of fun to unpack the relationships and drama together."

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The same can be said for a show like "Succession" – a drama about the family behind a media empire and the quest to control it – which dominates conversations on Twitter even days after an episode airs. It follows the legacy of water cooler shows like "Dallas" and "Dynasty," all about rich people behaving badly.

Whether someone loves or hates (or loves to hate) this type of TV is a personal choice – not something ingrained in your brain.

"Why do some people hate this and why do some people like it? That's not a question for science," Thompson says. "That's a question of show business."

This article was originally published on USA Today