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Differences Between Jealousy Of Men Than For Women

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 1768 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Research is growing to find if there is a difference among men and women when perceiving jealousy. Specifically emotional reactions to a romantic partner’s infidelity, with men being more upset by a partner’s sexual infidelity and women being more upset by a partner’s emotional infidelity (Bailey, Gaulin, Agyei, and Gladue, 1994; Buss, Larsen, Weston, and Semmekoth, 1992; Buunk, Angleitner, Oubaid, and Buss, 1996). However, there is an ongoing discussion as how best to interpret these gender differences, with theorists falling largely into one of the groups: 1) those that view jealousy as an evolved sexual adaptive solution of paternal uncertainty and 2) those who view jealousy as a general social cognition emotion. The main difference in the groups is that those in the first group’s focus is on distal explanations of jealousy while those in the second group’s focus on proximal explanations of jealousy. In addition, the groups differ in their apprehension of how the mind works, with those in the first group adopting a modular view (Toobey and Cosmides,1992) and those in the second group adopting a general processor view.

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Theorists in the first group share the conjecture that jealousy is an entity that evolved to explain the specific problem of mate preservation (Daly, Wilson, and Weghorst, 1982). They proclaim that different jealousy responses evolved as a consequence of the fact that ancestral men and women faced unique reproductive challenges. Due to concealed fertilization, men could never be certain that they were genetically related to any children born to their mate. This paternity uncertainty was the greatest reproductive challenge faced by ancestral men. Consequently, selection pressures favored ancestral men who responded with jealousy to signals of a partner’s sexual infidelity because by doing so they decreased their likelihood of being cuckolded. Women should be less upset than men to signals of a partner’s sexual infidelity because ancestral women did not face the problem of cuckoldry. However, ancestral women faced a unique reproductive challenge not shared by ancestral men, in that they had to eat a very high calorie diet to meet the energy demands associated with pregnancy and lactation. Consequently, selection pressures favored ancestral women who responded with jealousy to signals of a mate’s diversion of resources because by doing so they increased the likelihood that they would have the caloric intake sufficient to maintain a healthy pregnancy and an adequate production of breast milk. Buss et al. (1992) argue that the single most consistent indicator to ancestral women that they were in danger of losing a partner’s resources was if their partner was developing an emotional attachment to another woman, because this emotional attachment signaled his willingness to invest resources in this other woman and her offspring.

This theory uses the support from the study that found the sex difference in jealousy evolved through anger or acts of aggressive displayed by men who were evoked by jealous tendencies (Daly and Wilson, 1988), men also use violence to control the sexual behavior of their partner (Daly and Wilson, 1988). In a critical report the findings showed that, when forced to decide if a romantic partner’s sexual infidelity or emotional infidelity upset them more, women were found to choose emotional infidelity over sexual infidelity, in contrast men found sexual infidelity to be more upsetting (Buss, Larsen, Weston, and Semmelroth, 1992). The results found by this study have been replicated and used the same forced choice method. Although the studies have been supported, there have been studies have reported the opposite results.

Theorists in the second group direct their focus on the social cognition and are not limited to romantic partners. Such as, one could feel jealousy over a sibling receiving more affection from the parent or a coworker receiving more praise from a boss. Harris (2003) disputes that jealousy is trigged by the initial feeling a threat to a relationship but that the exact nature and extent of the emotional reaction is determined by the cognitive assessment of the threat. Using this perspective, sex differences can be determined by the cognitive assessments about threats to a romantic relationship. According to Salovey and Rodin, their domain hypothesis suggests that people will have greater feeling of jealousy of individuals that they see to be more superior to them in domains that are highly relevant (1984). A partner’s attraction to a rival not only points towards a potential of a relationship but also represents a threat to self-esteem, because a partner’s choice of a rival suggests his/her superiority. Further research of social cognitive perspective suggests sex differences in jealousy are consequences of differences in logical inferences men and women conclude about the extent sexual infidelity implies the emotional infidelity or how emotional infidelity implies sexual infidelity. This idea is supported by research conduct by Harris and Christenfeld (1996) and DeSteno and Salovey (1996) that people perceive men are more likely than women to have sexual infidelity when there is a lack of an emotional attachment but think that men are less likely than women to form an emotional attachment in a nonsexual relationship. The research includes that these assumptions are what contribute people to believe that a woman’s sexual infidelity signifies her emotional infidelity while a man’s emotional infidelity signifies his sexual infidelity. Consequently, the gender difference as to which type of infidelity is worse is based on a gender difference as to which type of infidelity implies the occurrence of the other.

The purpose of this study is to examine further the role of those who view jealousy as a general social cognition emotion as a proximal explanation for gender differences in jealousy. This study will combine both approaches presented above, but will change the person that the partner’s imagined infidelity occurs. If jealousy is a domain specific response designed to prevent cuckoldry for men and prevent resource diversion for women, then the person who the partner commits the infidelity should have no impact on jealousy. In contrast, if jealousy is a general emotional reaction to threatened relations based on social cognition then the person the partner commits infidelity should have an impact on jealousy.



Participants will be roughly 200 women and 200 men enrolled at Central Washington University. The selection will be random. The demographics of Central Washington University include 10,282 first-time degree seeking students. 7556 White, non-Hispanic, 805 Hispanic, 642 Asian or Pacific Islander, 416 Race/ethnicity unknown, 349 Black, non-Hispanic, 286 American Indian or Alaska Native, and 228 Nonresident aliens. 4,555 men and 4,650 women. All these students are enrolled full-time. This information was gathered from the Central Washington University site for academic year 2009.


Following a method described by DeSteno, Bartlett, Braverman, & Salovey (2003), participants rated on a 7-point Likert-type scale how much they felt each of six emotions (angry, jealous, calm, threatened, relieved, and hurt) in response to each scenario in the first test procedure.

For the second test the forced-choice measure will be used and is similar to those used in previous research investigating sex differences in jealousy resulting from sexual and emotional infidelity (Buss et al., 1992; Buunk et al., 1996; DeSteno & Salovey, 1996). Individuals were asked to indicate which of the following two events would cause them more distress: (a) finding out that one’s partner had passionate sexual intercourse with another person or (b) finding out that one’s partner had formed a deep emotional attachment to another person. Participants will also complete two versions of this scale that will ask for their responses to the same instances of sexual and emotional infidelity, respectively. On this measure, participants were presented with specific statements to which they responded using a 7-point scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree), with the middle point indicating neither agreement nor disagreement.


Participants will report in small groups of no more than twenty to an assigned room, once groups are in their assigned room, they will be informed that the study of the relation between personal character and habits that occur in the context of a romantic relationship. Similar to the procedure used by Buss, Larsen, Westen, and Semmelroth (1992), participants will be instructed to, “Please think of a serious committed romantic relationship that you currently have, have had in the past, or would like to have in the future.” Next the participants will be asked to imagine four separate scenarios in which this partner is unfaithful. The scenarios will describe either sexual infidelity, “Imagine your partner enjoying sexual intercourse with someone else,” or emotional infidelity, “Imagine you partner falling in love with someone else.” The wording in the scenarios will be modeled after items used by Pietrzak Laird, Stevens, and Thompson (2002). To measure more than the type of infidelity the person with whom the partner committing an infidelity will be manipulated. Participants will be asked to imagine their partner “falling in love with a close friend” or “falling in love with your boss.” Equally, participants will be asked to imagine their partner “enjoying sexual intercourse with a close friend” or “enjoying sexual intercourse with their boss.”

The next test will be presented to participants with two forced choice problem in which they will have to select one of two infidelity scenarios as more upsetting. In one problem, participants will have to choose between their partner’s emotional infidelity with an unknown person and their partner’s sexual infidelity with an unknown person. In the next present problem, participants will have to choose between their partner’s emotional infidelity with someone that is known (such as, friend, coworker, etc.) and their partner’s sexual infidelity with someone that is known.


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