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When we love, hate, pity, or fear, then we typically love, hate, pity, or fear someone or something. And when we are angry, proud, or surprised, then we are typically angry at, proud of, or surprised about someone or something. This someone or something toward which emotions are directed is traditionally called the intentional object of the respective emotion. The intentional object has been considered a fundamental characteristic shared by all mental phenomena including emotions by both philosophical and psychological emotion theorists (e.g., Brentano, 1973, Green, 1992, Meinong, 1894, Ortony et al., 1988, Searle, 1983, Siemer, 2005). In the above examples of emotions, the intentional objects are usually readily identifiable: if we love or hate someone, the intentional object of our love or hate is the person concerned; if we are proud of the achievement of our child, the intentional object of our pride is the achievement of our child, and if we are surprised about the unexpected success of our favorite soccer team, that success is the intentional object of our surprise. Furthermore, these examples suggest that emotions can be directed either at individual things (e.g., people) or at states of affairs (e.g., Meinong, 1894). Ortony et al. (1988) further refined this classification by proposing that emotion can be directed at three different aspects of our world: objects, agents, and events. In the above examples, the focus of love is on an object, the loved person, and her properties; pride is directed towards the actions of an agent; and surprise focuses on an event and its consequences.
With respect to the intentional object of romantic jealousy, however, matters seem to be considerably more complicated: Although there is widespread agreement in the literature with respect to the causes and consequences of romantic jealousy, no agreement exists on its intentional object. That is, most authors agree that romantic jealousy is (a) aroused by a perceived threat to a valued romantic relationship generated by a real or imagined attraction between the partner and a (perhaps imaginary) rival and (b) motivates behavior aimed at countering the threat (e.g., Buss, 2000, Daly et al., 1982, White & Mullen, 1989). In contrast, as concerns the intentional object of romantic jealousy, many prominent theories of jealousy simply fail to specify this object (cf. Paul, Foss, & Galloway, 1993), and others consider either objects, events, or actions as the intentional object of jealousy. To illustrate, Spinoza (1677/1948) defined jealousy as hatred towards the partner together with envy of the rival; presumably, then, being a mixture of two other emotions, jealousy has two intentional objects. More recently, Solomon (2000) conjectured that the object of romantic jealousy involves “not only a threatened loss but a perpetrator as well (perhaps the threatened object as a perpetrator too), and possibly the larger social situation in which jealousy involves not only loss but humiliation as well” (p. 11). At an empirical level, Pines and Friedman (1998) provided some evidence that women might focus their jealousy more than men on the threat to the relationship imposed by a mate's infidelity. In the scheme of Ortony et al. (1988), hatred and envy are directed at a person qua object, whereas the threat to the relationship imposed by a mate's infidelity focuses on an event and its consequences. Moreover, emotional and sexual infidelity can be conceived of as events, but they can also be construed as actions by two agents (the partner and the rival).
The diversity of the proposed objects of jealousy could simply reflect the complexity of jealousy itself. Indeed, authors such as Spinoza (1677/1948) and Freud (1924) have argued that jealousy may not be a discrete emotion but should be considered to be a compound of several other emotions, such as hate and envy; grief and enmity; or sadness, fear, anger, self-pity, rage, or hate, each of which is directed at a specific object (cf. Hupka, 1984). However, the disagreement about the intentional object of romantic jealousy could also reflect that jealousy theorists have not paid sufficient attention to this issue, possibly because they considered it to be of only minor significance for the understanding of this emotion. In contrast, I believe that the intentional object of jealousy is essential for a proper understanding of this emotion for at least three reasons. First, any jealousy theory is incomplete without the identification of its intentional object. Second, the identification of the intentional object of jealousy contributes to the delineation of jealousy from other emotions that might co-occur in the context of a partner's suspected or actual infidelity but have other intentional objects. And third, it seems crucial for the deduction of hypotheses relating to the regulation of cognitive and behavioral processes motivated by men's and women's jealousy mechanism. For it is the intentional object—and not necessarily the cause or elicitor—of jealousy that presumably guides and directs these cognitive and behavioral processes. Daly et al.'s (1982) definition of jealousy as “a state that is aroused by a perceived threat to a valued relationship or position and motivates behavior aimed at countering that threat” (p. 12) may help to illustrate this point: if we want to understand more precisely how men and women will try to counter the perceived threat to a valued relationship in the typical case, it is not sufficient to know that jealousy has been aroused by that threat; we also need to know the intentional object of jealousy because the threat will presumably be countered primarily by taking action against the object of jealousy.
In this article, I propose a functional, evolutionary psychological perspective on the issue of the intentional object of romantic jealousy. Evolutionary psychologists view jealousy as a psychological mechanism that evolved because it recurrently solved an essential problem of individual reproduction in our evolutionary history: infidelity in reproductive relationships (Daly et al., 1982, Symons, 1979). A distinctive feature of the evolutionary view is the assumption of a sex-specific, evolved jealousy mechanism because different infidelity types have recurrently threatened male and female reproductive success. Specifically, a woman's sexual infidelity deprives her mate of a reproductive opportunity and may burden him with years of investment in a genetically unrelated child. In contrast, a man's sexual infidelity does not burden his mate with unrelated children, but he may divert resources from his mate's progeny. This resource threat may be signaled by his level of emotional attachment to another female. As a consequence, men are predicted to be more concerned than women with the prevention of the (re-)occurrence of a mate's sexual infidelity, whereas, conversely, women are predicted to be more concerned than men with the prevention of the (re-)occurrence of a mate's emotional infidelity (Buss et al., 1992, Schützwohl, 2005, Schützwohl, 2006, Schützwohl & Koch, 2004).
Thus, jealousy is not just a complex or combination of other emotions but a discrete emotion the intentional object of which is likely an individual (the partner or rival), rather than just a particular event or an act of infidelity involving these individuals. Although jealousy is typically evoked by specific events or acts of infidelity involving the partner and a rival, it would not be functional to be jealous about a particular transient act of infidelity that can take on many different forms because this act is only a potential and often ambiguous signal of a deeper and more enduring adaptive threat. Rather, to successfully cope with this threat it appears essential to identify temporally stable local causes of these acts potentially signaling infidelity because only then is it possible to predict and—possibly—to prevent the occurrence of future acts of infidelity (Heider, 1958). The temporally stable local causes of these acts, however, are the partner and the rival who therefore lend themselves as the preferred intentional objects of romantic jealousy.
Several arguments suggest sex differences with respect to the preferred person as the intentional object of jealousy. Each of these arguments by itself might not be entirely conclusive but given the fact that they all arrive at the same conclusion, taken together, they make a strong point for the prediction of sex differences. First, the parental investment theory of Trivers (1972) predicts that the sex that invests more in offspring will be more discriminating or selective in mating and that the sex that invests less in offspring will compete for access to the higher investing sex. Thus, it is the female who does the choosing in sexual and emotional affairs and therefore lends herself as the primary target of jealousy. Second, as pointed out by one of the reviewers, a perhaps even more compelling reason why Trivers' theory might imply that women will be the primary target of jealousy is that the female is the more valuable sex in human mating. Third, a main goal of the evolved jealousy mechanism is to prevent the (re-)occurrence of a mate's infidelity. To achieve this goal, it is important to change the behavior of the individuals involved and it is in all likelihood easier to change the behavior of the physically weaker sex (i.e., the females' behavior). These considerations result in the main hypothesis that men and women preferentially direct their jealousy towards the respective female part in the “eternal triangle” (Buss, 2000). For the jealous man, this is his partner, and for the jealous woman, this is the (potential) rival. Additionally, based on accumulating evidence that the sex differences predicted by the evolutionary view of jealousy are most pronounced when comparing men's and women's response to the adaptively primary infidelity type (i.e., female sexual and male emotional infidelity; Schützwohl, 2004, Schützwohl, 2005, Schützwohl, in press, Schützwohl & Koch, 2004), a second hypothesis is proposed, according to which this sex-specific preference in the intentional object of romantic jealousy might be especially pronounced when facing the adaptively primary infidelity type than the adaptively secondary infidelity type (i.e., female emotional and male sexual infidelity). These hypotheses are tested in three studies. Study 1 used a forced-choice response format, asking participants whether their jealousy would be primarily directed towards their partner or towards the rival. In contrast, the participants of Study 2 indicated the extent to which their jealousy would be directed towards their partner and towards the rival on continuous rating scales. In both studies, the participants responded either to a mate's imagined actual sexual or emotional infidelity. Study 3 tested the hypotheses for suspected sexual or emotional infidelity using the forced-choice response format. Additionally, the participants' current relationship status, their own and their partner's (un)faithfulness were assessed as potential moderators in this study.
2. Study 1
The participants were 104 female and 92 male students at the University of Bielefeld. Their age ranged from 17 to 33 years (M=23.3; S.D.=2.5). They were not paid for their voluntary participation.
The participants were first instructed to think of a committed romantic relationship that they had had in the past, that they were currently having, or that they would like to have. Depending on the condition, they were then informed that they discovered that their partner had fallen in love or had sexual intercourse with another person. Subsequently, they were asked to indicate whether their jealousy would be primarily directed towards their partner or towards the rival. The order of the presentation of the two response alternatives was counterbalanced across participants' sex and infidelity type.
The participants were individually approached in the public areas of the university and asked to fill out a short questionnaire. They were randomly assigned to the sexual or emotional infidelity condition. To enhance the anonymity of the study, the participants were requested to fold the questionnaire immediately after its completion and throw it into an opaque box.
Table 1 shows the percentages of men and women reporting that their jealousy would be primarily targeted at the rival as a function of infidelity type (sexual vs. emotional infidelity). As predicted, combined across infidelity types, 71% of the women but only 45% of the men reported that their jealousy would be primarily directed towards the rival: χ2=14.23; df=1; n=196; p<.001, which represents a fairly large effect size (Hasselblad & Hedges, 1995), d=.61. These differences were obtained for both emotional infidelity: χ2=6.98, df=1; n=95; p=.008, d=.61, and sexual infidelity: χ2=7.37, df=1; n=101; p=.007, d=.68. As shown in Table 1, in both conditions, significantly more women than men selected the rival as the main target of their jealousy. Also, as predicted, the sex-specific differences were especially pronounced when confronted with the adaptively primary infidelity type: 83% of the women confronted with emotional infidelity selected the rival, whereas only 33% of the men confronted with sexual infidelity chose the rival: χ2=26.00, df=1; n=101; p<.001, d=1.26. In contrast, women's and men's choices confronted with the adaptively secondary infidelity type (i.e., male sexual and female emotional infidelity, respectively) did not significantly differ (60% of the women and 58% of the men chose the rival), χ2<1 (see Table 1).
|Men (n=92)||Women (n=104)|
|Men (n=135)||Women (n=140)|
|Men (n=83)||Women (n=72)|
4. Study 2
The participants were 167 female and 169 male students at the University of Bielefeld. Their age ranged from 19 to 45 years (M=23.1; S.D.=3.9). They were not paid for their voluntary participation.
The participants in the sexual and emotional infidelity condition received the same instructions as in Study 1, with the exception that they were asked to indicate the extent to which their jealousy would be directed at their partner and at the rival on eight-point rating scales ranging from 0 (not at all) to 7 (very strongly). The order of the presentation of the two rating scales was counterbalanced across participants' sex and infidelity type.
The procedure was the same as in Study 1.
Table 2 shows the men's and women's mean ratings of the focus of their jealousy on the partner and the rival. A three-way analysis of variance with sex and infidelity type (emotional vs. sexual infidelity) as the between subjects factors and the jealousy ratings towards the partner and the rival as the within-subjects factor yielded a significant main effect for the within-subjects factor: F(1,332)=9.73, MSE=4.16, p=.002, partial eta2=.028. This main effect was modified by a highly significant interaction with the participants' sex: F(1, 332)=11.54, p=.001, partial eta2=.034. The significant interaction is due to men providing higher jealousy ratings towards the partner than women (4.61 vs. 3.83), t(334)=3.51, p=.001, d=.38. In contrast, no significant differences were found for men's and women's jealousy ratings towards the rival (4.56 vs. 4.86), t(334)=1.28, p>.20.
|Partner||4.92 (2.02)||4.31 (2.04)||4.61 (2.05)|
|Rival||4.50 (2.14)||4.64 (2.05)||4.56 (2.09)|
|Partner||3.77 (2.22)||3.89 (1.79)||3.82 (2.01)|
|Rival||5.00 (2.01)||4.71 (2.05)||4.86 (2.03)|
Within-sex comparisons revealed that women reported that their jealousy would be directed more at the rival than the partner (4.86 vs. 3.82): t(166)=4.58, p<.001, d=.51, and this difference was significant for both infidelity types: ts>2.75, ps<.008, ds>.42. Men's jealousy ratings, however, did not significantly differentiate between the partner and the rival (4.61 vs. 4.56) [t(168)<1]. The three-way interaction just fell short of the conventional significance threshold: F(1, 332)=3.36, p=.068, partial eta2=.01. The remaining main effects and interactions were not significant: Fs<2.5, ps>.10.
To allow a direct comparison of the present ratings with the results of Study 1, the percentages of men and women who provided higher jealousy ratings for the rival than the partner are also presented in Table 1. Participants who did not differentiate (i.e., who rated that their jealousy would be equally directed towards the partner and the rival) were excluded in order to facilitate the comparison with the results of Study 1. This exclusion applied to 20% of the men and 13% of the women, leaving 135 men and 145 women in the ensuing statistical analyses.
Replicating the results of Study 1, combined across infidelity types, significantly more women than men reported that their jealousy would be primarily directed at the rival (71% vs. 48%): χ2=15.26, df=1; n=280; p<.001, d=.54. Comparisons between men and women separately for emotional and sexual infidelity also yielded significant sex differences for both infidelity types: χ2=4.52, df=1; n=148; p=.034, d=.40 and χ2=11.88, df=1; n=132; p=.001, d=.69, respectively. As in Study 1, in both infidelity conditions, significantly more women than men selected the rival as the main target of their jealousy (cf. Table 1). Also, as predicted, the sex differences were again more pronounced in response to the adaptively primary (71% of the women and 41% of the men chose the rival) than the adaptively secondary infidelity type (71% of the women and 54% of the men chose the rival): χ2=12.51, df=1; n=139; p<.001, d=.69 vs. χ2=4.26, df=1; n=141; p=.039, d=.40 (see Table 1).
6. Study 3
In the previous studies, the participants were asked to imagine a partner's actual infidelity. In contrast, the participants in Study 3 were instructed to imagine a partner's suspected infidelity. In the present context, the major difference between actual and suspected infidelity concerns the rival. In actual infidelity, the jealousy mechanism typically deals with one known actual rival, whereas in suspected infidelity, the jealousy mechanism more likely faces suspected potential rivals. Thus, in suspected infidelity, the salience of the rival as the intentional object of jealousy is reduced, whereas at the same time the salience of the partner is enhanced.
The participants were 77 female and 86 male students at the University of Bielefeld. Their age ranged from 17 to 41 years (M=24.9; S.D.=3.7). They were not paid for their voluntary participation.
The participants in the sexual and emotional infidelity condition received the same instructions as in Study 1, with the following exceptions. (a) Depending on the condition, they were instructed to imagine that they suspected that their partner might have fallen in love or might have sexual intercourse with another person. (b) Subsequently, (wo)men were asked to indicate whether their jealousy would be primarily directed towards their partner or towards other (wo)men (i.e., towards potential rivals). The order of the presentation of the two response alternatives was counterbalanced across participants' sex and infidelity type. Additionally, participants indicated in yes–no response formats whether they are currently involved in a committed heterosexual relationship, whether they ever had been cheated on sexually or emotionally, and whether they ever had been sexually or emotionally unfaithful.
The procedure was the same as in Study 1.
The number of participants included in the following analyses varies due to partially missing or invalid data.
Fifty percent of the men and 64% of the women reported being currently involved in a committed heterosexual relationship. Moreover, 26% of the men and 36% of the women indicated that they had been cheated on sexually. An emotionally unfaithful partner was reported by 54% the men and 53% of the women. Finally, 32% of the men and 25% of the women admitted having been sexually unfaithful, whereas 52% of the men but only 36% of the women conceded having been emotionally unfaithful. Only the latter sex difference was significant: χ2=4.01, df=1; n=160; p=.045, d=.36; remaining χ2s<3.1, ps>.05.
Table 1 shows the percentages of men and women reporting that their jealousy would be primarily targeted at potential rivals as a function of the suspected infidelity type (sexual vs. emotional infidelity). Combined across infidelity type, as predicted by the main hypothesis, 81% of the women but only 53% of the men reported that their jealousy would be primarily targeted at potential rivals χ2=13.00; df=1; n=155; p<.001, d=72. This sex difference was obtained for both emotional infidelity, χ2=9.78, df=1; n=79; p=.002, d=.99, and sexual infidelity, χ2=4.52, df=1; N=76; p=.034, d=.57. Supporting the second hypothesis, the sex-specific differences were especially pronounced when confronted with the adaptively primary infidelity type: 88% of the women confronted with emotional infidelity selected the rival, whereas only 50% of the men confronted with sexual infidelity chose the rival, χ2=12.07, df=1; n=72; p=.001, d=1.11. In contrast, women's and men's choices confronted with the adaptively secondary infidelity type differed only marginally significantly (74% of the women and 56% of the men chose the rival): χ2=2.93, df=1; n=83; p=.087, d=0.44 (see Table 1).
Relationship status and own unfaithfulness moderated the sex differences reported above. No significant sex differences were found for participants who were not currently involved in a committed heterosexual relationship and who had neither been sexually nor emotionally unfaithful to their partner: χ2=2.26 and χ2=0.24, respectively, ps>.10. In contrast, 50% of the men but 84% of the women currently involved in a committed heterosexual relationship indicated a preferred focus of their jealousy on potential rivals: χ2=11.81, df=1, n=87, p=.001, d=.93. This sex difference was even more pronounced for participants who had been sexually and/or emotionally unfaithful inasmuch as only 41% of the unfaithful men but 90% of the unfaithful women selected the potential rivals as the preferred targets of their jealousy: χ2=18.68, df=1, n=79, p<.001, d=1.42.
Fig. 1 illustrates that relationship status interacted with suspected sexual but not with suspected emotional infidelity. Facing suspected emotional infidelity, significantly more women than men chose the potential rivals as the preferred object of their jealousy, irrespective of their current relationship status: χ2>4.50, ps<.05, ds>.91. In contrast, suspected sexual infidelity resulted in significant sex differences for participants with a romantic partner, χ2=6.66, df=1, n=43, p=.01, d=.97, but not for participants without a romantic partner (χ2<1) (see Fig. 1).
Fig. 1. The percentages of men and women reporting that their jealousy would be primarily targeted at the rival as a function of infidelity type and current relationship status.
Participants' own unfaithfulness interacted with both suspected infidelity types. As shown in Fig. 2, no sex differences emerged for faithful men and women suspecting sexual or emotional infidelity (χ2s<1). In contrast, suspecting sexual infidelity, only 26% of the unfaithful men reported that their jealousy would be primarily directed towards the potential rivals, whereas conversely, 83% of the unfaithful women indicated that their jealousy would focus on potential rivals: χ2=9.57, df=1, N=31, p=.002, d=1.45 (see Fig. 2). Suspecting emotional infidelity, 50% of the unfaithful men but 94% of the unfaithful women chose the potential rivals as the preferential object of their jealousy: χ2=10.00, df=1, n=48, p=.002, d=1.56.
Fig. 2. The percentages of men and women reporting that their jealousy would be primarily targeted at the rival as a function of infidelity type and own faithfulness.
Finally, the partner's sexual or emotional (un)faithfulness did not moderate the participants' choices of the object of their jealousy. Rather, the characteristic sex differences were significant for participants with faithful and unfaithful partners: χ2s>6.0, ps<.02, ds>0.62.
Three studies tested the main hypothesis that men preferentially direct their jealousy towards the partner, whereas women preferentially direct their jealousy towards the rival. Additionally, it was predicted that these sex differences would be especially pronounced with respect to the evolutionary primary infidelity type. The results of the studies consistently confirmed both hypotheses. In Study 1, combined across infidelity types, the majority of women reported that their jealousy would be predominantly directed at the rival, whereas the majority of men indicated that their jealousy would mainly focus on the partner. In Study 2, as predicted, men rated the extent to which their jealousy would focus on the partner significantly higher than women. However, although the means were in the predicted direction, no sex differences were found for jealousy ratings towards the rival. Within-sex comparisons, however, revealed that women, in agreement with the theoretical considerations consistently reported greater jealousy towards the rival than the partner. Moreover, replicating Study 1, significantly more women than men rated that their jealousy would be aimed at the rival than towards the partner for both sexual and emotional infidelity. This pattern of findings suggests that the absence of the significant sex difference in the ratings with respect to the rival is mostly attributable to the men's high ratings for the rival as the focus of their jealousy. Study 3 confirmed the predicted sex differences found for actual infidelity in Studies 1 and 2 for suspected infidelity. Women again showed a very pronounced preference for the rival as the target of their jealousy despite the fact that in the case of suspected infidelity the rival was more difficult to target, inasmuch as the rival was introduced not as a specific single woman but vaguely as other women as potential rivals.
Moreover, supporting the second hypothesis, the predicted sex differences were consistently more pronounced for the adaptively primary than the adaptively secondary infidelity type. In fact, the effect sizes of the sex differences were large to very large for the adaptively primary infidelity type but absent to moderate for the adaptively secondary infidelity type. To appreciate the importance of this finding it is helpful to note that the sex differences in the preferred intentional object of jealousy were (a) significant for both sexual and emotional infidelity in each of the three studies and that (b) comparisons between men's and women's decisions for the adaptively primary and secondary infidelity type in each case involve a comparison between sexual and emotional infidelity. Thus, the fact that the sex differences were consistently more pronounced for the adaptively primary infidelity type cannot be attributed to characteristics of the infidelity types per se. Rather, decisions in response to infidelity type that the jealousy mechanism evolved to solve accentuate the sex differences as a result of the functional specialization of the respective jealousy mechanism.
The results of Study 3 also emphasize the importance of considering relevant contextual factors as potential moderators of the jealousy mechanism (e.g., Buss et al., 1992, Schützwohl, in press, Schützwohl & Koch, 2004). The sex differences were found only for participants currently involved in a committed heterosexual relationship. The own unfaithfulness proved to be an even more important moderator of the participants' decisions. Faithful participants showed no sex-specific preferences of the intentional objects of their jealousy neither for suspected sexual nor suspected emotional infidelity. In complete contrast, unfaithful participants' decisions confirmed both hypotheses revealing a strong sex difference in the preferred target of jealousy which was especially pronounced for the adaptively primary infidelity type: confronted with suspected sexual infidelity, 74% of the men facing sexual infidelity selected the partner as the intentional object of their jealousy, whereas 94% of the women confronted with suspected emotional infidelity chose the potential rival women. Interestingly, the partner's unfaithfulness did not moderate the participants' choices. Rather, the sex differences in the intentional object of jealousy emerged for participants with faithful and unfaithful partners. This dissociation between the effects of one's own and one's partner's (un)faithfulness suggests that the evolved jealousy mechanism relies on input about the emotional, cognitive, and behavioral aspects of the act of infidelity (Barrett, Frederick, Haselton, & Kurzban, 2006). Furthermore, it appears that this input might be more vivid, elaborate, and informative and, thus, more effective if derived from the active performance of infidelity than the more passive imagination or rumination over a partner's infidelity.
The present studies are limited inasmuch as they exclusively rely on self-reports of the preferred target of romantic jealousy. Nevertheless, sex differences in the intentional objects of jealousy must be considered as an important evidence of the functional specialization of men's and women's evolved jealousy mechanism (Barrett, 2005, Pinker, 1997, Tooby & Cosmides, 1992). This is because it provides the basis for the deduction of hypotheses relating to the sex differences in the cognitions and the behavior of jealous men and women in dealing with a mate's suspected or actual infidelity. Some albeit indirect support for this argument stems from mate guarding and retention tactics. This support should be considered indirect because it does not derive from experiments designed to explicitly test the hypothesis that men's mate guarding and retention strategies are primarily targeted at the partner, whereas women's strategies are primarily targeted at the rival. Men's strategies first. Daly and Wilson (1993) describe a wide range of behavior linked to men's jealousy ranging from vigilance to violence and these behaviors appear to be predominantly geared to the partner. Men more than women use physical violence to punish or prevent a mate's sexual infidelity, and in extreme cases, this violence ends deadly. Less severe manifestations of men's sexual proprietariness include veiling, chaperoning, purdah, incarceration, and chastity belts. As Daly and Wilson (1993) note, “the significance of these practices is evident when one notes that it is only women of reproductive age who are confined” (p. 283). Additionally, Buss and Shackelford (1997) assessed mate retention tactics of married couples and found that men more than women used partner-directed tactics such as resource displays (e.g., he spends a lot of money on her) and submission and debasement (e.g., he gives in to her every wish). In contrast, women more than men were found to use rival-directed verbal possession signals (e.g., she mentions to other women that he is taken). Moreover, women enhanced their appearance allegedly for their partner. However, appearance enhancement might as well allude to intrasexual competition in which women first and foremost try to favorably compare with rival women.
The present support for the claim of sex differences in the preferred intentional object of romantic jealousy might contribute to the decision whether romantic jealousy should be treated as a discrete psychological mechanism or be lumped together with other types of jealousy, as has been recently proposed by DeSteno, Valdesolo, and Bartlett (2006). These authors argue for a general jealousy mechanism that underlies various manifestations of jealousy like sibling rivalry, friendship jealousy, and romantic jealousy. However, a comparison between the results of their study (DeSteno et al., 2006; Study 2) with those of the present study raises doubt as to the adequacy of this conceptualization. Specifically, they found that a very mild level of experimentally induced friendship jealousy (conceptualized as a compound of jealous, angry, betrayed and hurt feelings) resulted in hostility that, in both men and women, was equally aimed at the partner and the rival. Of course, this finding is at variance with the present evidence suggesting sex-specific differences in the intentional object of romantic jealousy. Thus, the frequently indiscriminate use of the jealousy concept to various social constellations sharing a triangle, which constitutes the source of a threat to a valued relationship, appears to be premature at least.
Finally, the results of the present studies might provide the starting point for attempts to segregate the various emotions presumably co-occurring during episodes of a mate's infidelity like anger, envy, grief, apprehension, self-pity, etc. The identification of the intentional object of these emotions will alone not suffice to shoulder this task, but together with a closer examination of the elicitors and the cognitive, physiological and behavioral concomitants of the various emotions, this appears to be a promising and worthwhile endeavor.
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☆ This research has been partially supported by a grant from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG Schu 1559/1-3).
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