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Men, Women Get Equally Jealous

But Given a Choice, Infidelity Is Worse for Men

From the WebMD Archives

October 11, 2002 -- Sexual infidelity brings out the same jealous reaction in men and women according to a Northeastern University study. These new findings debunk the myth that jealousy over sexual or emotional infidelities is gender-related.

In a relationship, jealousy functions to alert individuals of their status, says assistant psychology professor David DeSteno, PhD, study leader. It is a means by which the couple seeks to maintain not only the relationship, but the benefits of the relationship as well.

The study challenges the notion that jealous reactions -- thought to be determined by evolutionary instincts -- are gender-specific. Men presumably react more to infidelity and women more to a partner who strays emotionally. Apparently in women this represents a threat to resources for themselves and their children.

In the study, 121 people were asked to rate how they'd feel if they found out their partner was emotionally or sexually bonding outside the relationship. Gender differences did become apparent in the results. Men became more distressed over infidelity whereas women rated emotional bonding outside of the relationship more threatening.

But when they didn't have to compare sexual infidelity with emotional infidelity and rated their feelings on sexual infidelity alone, men and women were equally distressed by it.

"Our findings challenge the empirical basis for the evolutionary theory of jealousy by demonstrating that evidence of a sexual difference in distress to sexual and emotional infidelity represents, in all likelihood a methodological artifact," DeSteno says in a news release. "It's not simply a matter of the brain being shaped by evolution."

The study will be published in the November issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. -->