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Sexual jealousy is a basic emotion. Although it lacks a distinctive facial expression and is unlikely to solve problems of survival, it evolved because it solves adaptive problems of mating. Some adaptive functions are similar in men and women at one level of abstraction, such as warding off potential mate poachers and deterring relationship defection. Other functions are sex-differentiated, such as increasing paternity probability for men and monopolizing a mate's economic commitments for women. Dozens of studies have documented sex-differentiated design features of jealousy: The relative upset about sexual and emotional aspects of infidelity; processing speed and memorial recall of sexual and emotional infidelity cues; physiological distress to sexual and emotional infidelity cues; qualities of same-sex rivals that evoke jealousy, such as superior job prospects versus greater physical attractiveness; triggers of mate retention tactics; jealous interrogations following the discovery of infidelity; and whether an infidelity produces forgiveness or breakup. Although showing all the hallmarks of evolved functionality, sexual jealousy also leads to tremendous destruction, from humiliation to homicide. By these scientific theoretical and empirical criteria, sexual jealousy is properly considered not only "basic" but also "one of the most important emotions".
Psychological Topics 22 (2013), 2, 155-182
Original scientific paperUDC 159.942.6
David M. Buss, Department of Psychology, University of Texas, Austin, USA. E-mail:
The author thanks Laith Al-Shawaf, Kelly Asao, April Bleske, Jaime Cloud, Barry
Kuhle, Brad Sagarin, Todd Shackelford, Achim Schutzwohl, and Donald Symons for
thoughtful suggestions on an earlier version of this paper.
Sexual Jealousy
David M. Buss
Department of Psychology, University of Texas, Austin, USA
Sexual jealousy is a basic emotion. Although it lacks a distinctive facial expression and is
unlikely to solve problems of survival, it evolved because it solves adaptive problems of mating.
Some adaptive functions are similar in men and women at one level of abstraction, such as
warding off potential mate poachers and deterring relationship defection. Other functions are sex-
differentiated, such as increasing paternity probability for men and monopolizing a mate's
economic commitments for women. Dozens of studies have documented sex-differentiated design
features of jealousy: The relative upset about sexual and emotional aspects of infidelity; processing
speed and memorial recall of sexual and emotional infidelity cues; physiological distress to sexual
and emotional infidelity cues; qualities of same-sex rivals that evoke jealousy, such as superior job
prospects versus greater physical attractiveness; triggers of mate retention tactics; jealous
interrogations following the discovery of infidelity; and whether an infidelity produces forgiveness
or breakup. Although showing all the hallmarks of evolved functionality, sexual jealousy also
leads to tremendous destruction, from humiliation to homicide. By these scientific theoretical and
empirical criteria, sexual jealousy is properly considered not only "basic" but also "one of the most
important emotions"
Keywords: jealousy, infidelity, emotion, evolution, mate retention
Jealousy is usually defined as a complex emotional state activated when there
is a threat to a valued social relationship (Daly, Wilson, & Weghorst, 1982). When
the valued relationship is a close friendship, threats may come from friendship
competitors who threaten to usurp a privileged position as a 'best friend' or BFF
(best friend forever). When the valued relationship is a sexual mateship, threats
may come from 'mate poachers' who show a keen interest in one's mate; from the
mate who gives off cues to infidelity or relationship defection; or even from the
PSYCHOLOGICAL TOPICS 22 (2013), 2, 155-182
relationship itself, as occurs when there is a mate value discrepancy, which might
correlate with a threat hovering on the horizon of a relationship, even without an
imminent threat of infidelity or defection (Buss, 2000).
Jealousy and envy are often used interchangeably in everyday life, but
psychologists usually distinguish the two emotions. Envy is a complex emotion
activated when someone else has something that you desire or covet but currently
lack. You might envy a work colleague who has secured a better pay raise or
promotion or you might envy a mating rival who is more attractive or well-liked.
John might be envious of a neighbor who is married to an especially attractive or
interesting woman. But John experiences jealousy if that neighbor shows behavior
designed to tempt his own wife into a sexual liaison. Jealousy and envy, in short,
are distinct emotions, despite their interchangeable usage in everyday discourse.
From an evolutionary perspective, jealousy and envy have distinctly different
functions that render them separate emotional adaptations. Envy has been
hypothesized to motivate actions designed to obtain the coveted benefits someone
else has that one lacks, and also to undermine or derogate rivals who seem to
possess benefits that one lacks (DelPriore, Hill, & Buss, 2012). Jealousy, in
contrast, has been hypothesized to function to motivate behavior designed to ward
off threats to valued relationships with behavior ranging from vigilance to violence
(Buss, 1988a; Buss & Shackelford, 1997).
If two emotions have different evolved functions with correspondingly distinct
'design features', they are considered to be distinct adaptations, even if they share
some features and overlap in some affective or cognitive elements (Buss, Haselton,
Shackelford, Bleske, & Wakefield, 1998). For example, a woman might become
enraged at a peer getting a promotion she felt she deserved instead and become
enraged at a husband caught in flagrante delicto with their neighbor's wife an
affective state common to envy and jealousy. But envy and jealousy have distinct
social inputs, information processing procedures, and behavioral outputs. The input
of a man having an affair provokes rage if the man is her husband, but not if the
man is her co-worker. The input of a man getting an undeserved promotion
provokes rage if the man is her rival co-worker, but not if the man is her husband.
Similarly, the behavioral output of the two emotions are distinct. The woman
envious about her co-worker getting a promotion might evaluate the value of that
promotion, and consequently redouble her efforts at work, ingratiate herself with
her boss, or try to undermine the projects of her co-worker. The woman
experiencing jealousy about her husband's infidelity might engage in other
information processing procedures, such as gauging the value of the relationship
and the magnitude of the threat. And contingent on those and other information
processing procedures, she might engage in different sorts of behaviors, ranging
from withdrawing to a retaliatory affair to divorce.
Buss, D.M.: Sexual Jealousy
The key point is that distinct inputs, distinct decision rules, and distinct
behavioral outputs are the hallmarks of distinct adaptations. As with most
adaptations, distinct emotion adaptations may have some or many common
components. The visual system, for example, is used in both food selection (e.g., to
select ripe berries) and mate selection adaptations (e.g., to select mates with cues to
health). But the fact that adaptations share common components does not imply
that they are not functionally distinct adaptations, in this case for solving adaptive
problems of food consumption and sexual consummation, respectively.
Analogously, envy and jealousy may share some affective components such as
rage, but if they also display distinct inputs, cognitive procedures, and behavioral
outputs, they are properly treated as functionally distinct adaptations.
Is Jealousy a "Basic" Emotion from an Evolutionary Perspective?
The scientific literature on emotions is rife with debates about whether there
exist "basic" emotions. Debates also surround the proper criteria for evaluating
whether an emotion is basic or not. The most prominent proponent of the existence
of basic emotions is Paul Ekman, who hypothesizes the existence of six or seven:
anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, and surprise are the most agreed-upon six,
with contempt being a seventh candidate around which there is some empirical
evidence, but less than that of the other six (Ekman, 1973, 1999; Ekman &
Cordaro, in press). The central criterion for evaluating an emotion as basic, within
Ekman's theoretical framework, is whether the emotion has a distinctive facial
expression that can be recognized universally an idea originally advanced by
Charles Darwin in his book The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals
(Darwin, 1872). Other criteria proposed by Ekman for considering emotions as
basic include distinctive universal signals, presence in other primates, distinctive
physiology, rapid onset, brief duration, automatic appraisal, and unbidden
occurrence (Ekman, 1994). Jealousy does not appear on Ekman's list of basic
emotions, and indeed no theorists have proposed that jealousy has a distinctive and
universally recognized facial expression. Nor does jealousy always have a rapid
onset. Nor is jealousy's duration always brief. Rather than being considered "basic,"
jealousy within Ekman's framework may be considered "derived" or a "blend" of
different emotions such as anger, fear, and sadness (Ekman, personal
The second key proponent of basic emotions from a somewhat different
evolutionary framework is that of Robert Plutchik, who proposes eight primary
emotionsanger, fear, sadness, disgust, surprise, anticipation, trust, and joy
(Plutchik, 1980). Plutchik's criteria for basic emotions include: (1) present in non-
human animals, (2) universally present across cultures in humans, and (3)
PSYCHOLOGICAL TOPICS 22 (2013), 2, 155-182
functional in helping organisms solve adaptive problems of survival. As with
Ekman's framework, jealousy does not make Plutchik's list of basic or primary
Although the frameworks of Ekman and Plutchik are both "evolutionary,"
from the perspective of modern evolutionary psychology the central criteria for
considering an emotion as "basic" or "primary" require re-evaluation. Specifically,
considering an emotion or any other psychological mechanisms as basic requires
the answer to one key question: Did the emotion evolve, shaped by selection,
because it solved an adaptive problem that is served a specific function
tributary to reproductive success?
This criterion for considering an emotion as basic or primary requires a bit
more elaboration in order to contrast it with the theoretical frameworks of Ekman
and Plutchik. Unlike both Ekman's and Plutchik's frameworks, there is no
requirement of presence in non-human animals, primate or otherwise. No one
would deem the adaptation of echolocation not "basic" in bats, even if it exists
rarely outside of bat species. Some adaptations exist in only a single species, such
as language in humans (Pinker & Bloom, 1990). Although many or most emotions
may indeed exist in other species or exist in precursor forms in earlier lineages,
such existence in other species is neither necessary nor sufficient for deeming an
emotion as basic according to the modern evolutionary psychological framework.
Second, possessing adaptive functionality is equated with the current
understanding of function in modern evolutionary biology and psychology (e.g.,
Buss, 1995; Dawkins, 1982; Tooby & Cosmides, 2005; Williams, 1966).
Specifically, differential reproductive success, not differential survival success, is
properly considered the "engine" of the process of evolution by selection. Survival
is important only inasmuch as it contributes to reproduction. Moreover, some
adaptations evolved that were detrimental to survival, but they evolved nonetheless
because they contributed to relative reproductive success. Examples include the
cumbersome plumage of peacocks, the costly production of enormous racks in elk,
and elevated levels of risk-taking in human males all of which lead to shorter
lifespans for the males encumbered by them. Because these qualities lead to greater
mating success, however, they evolved despite their costs in the currency of
This shift is important when it comes to jealousy because sexual jealousy does
not necessarily solve a problem of survival. Rather, it has been hypothesized to
exist because it contributed to the solution of adaptive problems of mating. For
example, the primary functions of male sexual jealousy are hypothesized to include
deterring infidelity, deterring mate poachers, and deterring defection from the
mateship effects which contribute to a man's reproductive success by ensuring
paternity certainty and monopolizing his mate's reproductive value. Its irrelevance
Buss, D.M.: Sexual Jealousy
to survival in no way disqualifies jealousy as basic or primary. Of course,
successful mate retention also may contribute to solution to a survival problem,
especially for women who retain mates who partially function as "body guards."
The key point is that contribution to relative reproductive success, not relative
survival success, is the critical criterion for the evolution of basic emotions and all
other psychological adaptations.
Finally, the fact that jealousy does not exhibit a distinctive and universally
recognized facial expression is irrelevant to whether or not it qualifies as a basic
emotion. It must have evolved and have a distinct adaptive function or functions,
with function understood as the specific way in which it contributed to differential
reproductive success, not within an outmoded framework that focuses solely on
survival. Basic emotions, of course, are expected to be universal, that is present in
humans across cultures. However, universality alone can never be used as a sole
criterion. There exist some universals of humans, such as the use of fire, which may
have attained their universality not because specific adaptations for them evolved,
but rather because they were discovered and then spread across populations through
a process of cultural transmission.
Phenomena that seem like jealousy may exist in other primate species such as
chimpanzees (de Waal, 1982). Nonetheless, it takes unique forms and has
distinctive design features in humans due to the particular mating strategies within
the human repertoire. Male chimpanzees, for example, show a sort of jealous-like
behavior toward the female and lower-ranking males primarily when the female is
in estrus. They sometimes direct aggression toward the other male, but sometimes
toward the female for consorting with him. In contrast, men show sexual jealousy
throughout the ovulation cycle of their partner, although there is some evidence that
it might be especially acute when the partner is ovulating (Haselton & Gangestad,
According to the foregoing analysis, a compelling case can be made that
jealousy is indeed a primary or basic emotion. There is good evidence that the
complex emotion of jealousy evolved primarily because it solved several key
adaptive problems of mating that are tributary to reproduction. Jealousy in mating
relationships is largely irrelevant to survival, and in some cases actually is
detrimental to survival. A man whose jealousy, upon discovering a mate poacher
engaged in sexual relations with his wife, might cause him to launch a physical
assault puts himself at risk of getting injured or killed by the man he is attacking.
Jealousy hardly promotes survival. But if it led over the long course of human
history, on average, to greater reproductive success, it would have evolved despite
its on-average cost to individual survival.
Jealousy, in short, fulfills the key modern evolutionary criterion of being a
basic or primary emotion, even though it lacks a distinctive facial expression, even
PSYCHOLOGICAL TOPICS 22 (2013), 2, 155-182
though its central functions in solving adaptive problems may not linked to
survival, and whether or not it is present in other species.
Destructive Consequences of Sexual Jealousy: From Humiliation to Homicide
Sexual jealousy is far from a trivial emotion. One index of importance of an
emotion is the range of consequences it produces. Jealousy produces an
astonishingly large range of consequences, many of which are known to be
destructive. It can lead to cutting off a partner's relationships with friends and
family, which in turn leads to the partner experiencing reduced self-esteem,
isolation, anxiety about well-being, and the terror of being brutalized (Buss, 2000;
Wilson & Daly, 1992). It is the leading cause of spousal battering (Daly et al.,
1982) and intimate partner violence more generally (Buss & Duntley, 2011).
Intimate partner violence can range from minor slaps to brutal beatings. And in
cases in which a man suspects that a mate is pregnant with a child that is not his, it
can lead to blows directed at the partner's abdomen, which in some cases lead to the
killing of the unborn child she is carrying (Buss & Duntley, 2011).
Jealousy is also the leading cause of the murder of mates and ex-mates,
particularly wives, girlfriends, ex-wives, and ex-girlfriends (Buss, 2006; Daly &
Wilson, 1988). Two key triggers seem to set men off on a murderous ragewhen
the man suspects or knows that his partner has been sexually unfaithful and when
she leaves the relationship and the man believes that the departure is irrevocable or
permanent. Women's jealousy can also lead to mate murder, but at less frequent
rates. When women do kill their partners, two key predictors are: (1) when the
woman is defending herself against a man who is coming after her in a jealous rage,
and (2) after a prolonged period of repeated episodes of physical abuse by a jealous
man, and the woman sees no other way to escape her jealous mate's abuse (Daly &
Wilson, 1988).
Jealousy is not just dangerous for mates and ex-mates. It is also dangerous to
those who befriend, consort with, or show romantic or sexual interest in a mate or
ex-mate. A vivid case is that of Ron Goldman, a casual friend of Nicole Brown
Simpson, who was murdered because he happened to be with Ms. Simpson when
she was murdered (the criminal trial of O.J. Simpson for her murder resulted in a
verdict of 'not guilty,' but a civil trial in which he was accused of committing
'wrongful death' returned a verdict of 'guilty.') Mate poachers are frequent targets of
homicidal ideation and same-sex rival murders (Buss, 2006; Duntley, 2005). Less
dramatic perhaps is the psychological anguish experienced by a woman's friends
and family who are driven away by a jealous man in his attempt to socially isolate
or "mate guard" her.
Buss, D.M.: Sexual Jealousy
Finally, jealousy can also exert corrosive effects on the individual
experiencing this brutal emotion. Experientially, jealousy is linked with an array of
negative feelings, including sadness, depression, rage, embarrassment, fear, and
humiliation (Buss, 2000). And it can lead to much seemingly self-destructive
behavior, including alcohol and drug abuse, to acts of suspicion and accusation, and
stalking and other forms of violence that undermine the very relationship a man or
a woman is trying to preserve (Buss & Duntley, 2011; Duntley & Buss, 2012).
Jealousy, in short, produces a tremendous range of destructive behavior
ranging from humiliation to homicide. These outcomes furnish an additional
rationale for considering jealousy to be an important or central emotion in the
human repertoire of emotions.
Mainstream Social Science Theories of Jealousy
Although jealousy historically has been largely neglected by social scientists,
it has not been entirely ignored. Several authors have proposed theories to explain
the origins and existence of jealousy. Freud was perhaps the first to formulate a
hypothesis about jealousy (Freud, 1910). In his view, jealousy originated in the
Oedipus complex, upon the realization by the young male child that it had a rival
for his mother's love and affection, an intrasexual competitor in the form of his
father. Daly and Wilson (1990) argue that Freud conflated two different types of
rivalries one real, and one fictitious. Boy and father compete, according to Daly
and Wilson, for the mother's time and resources, and this sort of conflict is well-
predicted by theories of parent-offspring conflict. But boy and father do not
compete for sexual access to the mother, and there is no evolutionary rationale for
expecting that they will do so. To my knowledge, there is no empirical evidence
that sexual jealousy originates from a young boy viewing his father as a competitor
for his mother's sexual resources.
According to psychologist Hupka, jealousy is a social construction: "It is
unlikely that human beings come 'prewired,' so to speak, into the world to be
emotional about anything other than the requirements for their immediate survival
... the desire to control the sexual behavior of mates is the consequence of the social
construction of the gender system. Social construction refers in this context to the
arbitrary assignment of activities and qualities to each gender (e.g., the desire for
honor, beauty, masculinity, femininity, etc.)." (Hupka, 1991, p. 254, 260; emphasis
added). According to this argument, society or culture assigns men and women
roles and activities, and presumably assigns men the role of controlling the
sexuality of their partners. Since social constructions are arbitrary, they should vary
widely from culture to culture. We should find cultures where men are jealous, but
women are not; others where women are jealous and men are not. And in cultures
PSYCHOLOGICAL TOPICS 22 (2013), 2, 155-182
that do not make these arbitrary assignments, there should be a total absence of
jealousy predictions known to be empirically wrong.
The psychiatrist Bhugra (1993) argues that jealousy is a result of "capitalist
society." According to this argument, capitalist societies place a premium on
personal possessions and property, which extend to possessing other people.
Capitalist society encourages "treating the love object in a literal object manner,
taking the partner to be the individual's personal possession or property" (p. 272). If
this theory is correct, then several implications follow. First, men and women living
in capitalist societies should be equally jealous and jealous about the same things.
Second, men and women living in socialist, anarchist, or dictatorship societies
should be entirely free of jealousy. Third, because "motives for jealousy are a
product of the culture," (p. 273) there should be wide variability across cultures in
motives for jealousy.
Another explanation of jealousy invokes low self-esteem, immaturity, or
character defects (Bhugra, 1993). According to this line of thinking, adults who
enjoy high self-esteem, maturity, and psychological soundness should experience
less jealousy or not experience jealousy at all. If personality defects create jealousy,
then curing those defects should eliminate jealousy.
A fifth explanation proposes that jealousy is a form of pathology. The core
assumption behind this explanation is that extreme jealousy results from a major
malfunction of the human mind. Curing the malfunction should eliminate jealousy.
Normal psychologically healthy people, according to this account, simply do not
experience extreme or intense jealousy. Empirically, however, there is a large
psychiatric literature in which individuals have been diagnosed as having
pathological jealousy or synonymous labelsdelusional jealousy, the Othello
Syndrome, morbid jealousy, or the erotic jealousy syndrome. Some instances of
jealousy are undoubtedly pathological or delusional (Buss, 2000; Easton, Schipper,
& Shackelford, 2007). Nonetheless, it is also clear that many people diagnosed as
having pathological jealousy turn out to have spouses who have in fact been
sexually unfaithful, so it is not clear that "pathology" is the correct diagnosis (see
Buss, 2000, for numerous examples).
Some of these explanations contain grains of truth. Sometimes jealousy is
indeed pathological, a product of brain injury from boxing or warfare (Johnson,
1969). Some aspects of cases diagnosed as pathological do include strong evidence
of actual delusions, as when a man came to believe that his wife set her Christmas
tree lights to blink in synchrony with those of the neighbor across the street (in this
case, it turned out that the wife was indeed having an affair with the neighbor, even
though the belief in Christmas tree light synchrony was almost certainly
delusional)(Buss, 2000).
Buss, D.M.: Sexual Jealousy
Expressions of jealousy do vary somewhat from culture to culture. Among the
Ache of Paraguay, jealous rivals settle disputes through ritual club fights, whereas
among the Kipsigis in Kenya, the offended husband might demand a refund on the
brideprice he paid for his wife (Borgerhoff Mulder, 1988; Hill & Hurtado, 1996).
None of these mainstream explanations, however, squares with the known
facts about jealousy. Even among the Ammassalik Eskimos in Greenland,
sometimes held up as a culture lacking jealousy, it is not unusual for a husband to
kill an interloper who has sex with his wife (Mirsky, 1937). And contrary to
Margaret Mead's assertion that Samoans are entirely lacking in jealousy and "laugh
incredulously at tales of passionate jealousy," jealousy in Samoa is a prominent
cause of violence against rivals and mates and they even have a word for it, fua
(Freeman, 1983, p. 244). To cite one example, "after Mata, the wife of Tavita, had
accused his older brother, Tule, of making sexual approaches to her during his
absence, Tavita attacked his brother, stabbing him five times in the back and neck"
(Freeman, 1983, p. 243-244). Samoan women also succumb to fits of jealousy. In
one case the husband of a 29 year old woman named Mele left her for another
woman, so Mele sought them out and "attacked them with a bush knife while they
were sleeping together" (Freeman, 1983, p. 244). Cultures in tropical paradises that
are entirely free of jealousy exist only in the romantic minds of optimistic
anthropologists, and in fact have never been found (Brown, 1991; Freeman, 1983).
Women labeled as suffering from "pathological jealousy" sometimes turn out
to have husbands who have been romancing other women for years. To understand
jealousy, we must peer deep into our evolutionary past to a time before computers,
before capitalism, and even before the advent of agriculture.
Evolutionary Theories of Jealousy: Function and Sex Differences
Donald Symons was the first to write explicitly about jealousy from an
adaptationist evolutionary perspective (Symons, 1979). He emphasized that sexual
jealousy is a prominent emotion in marriages:" Trobriand males are extremely
jealous of their mates; a man may kill his wife for adultery, but more commonly he
thrashes her, or sulks" (Symons, 1979, p. 113). He continues: "To the extent that
marriage has emotional sexual underpinnings, the most relevant emotion is not lust
but jealousy, especially male jealousy" (p. 123).
Symons was the first to posit sex differences in jealousy:" ... a wife's
experience of sexual jealousy varies with the degree of threat to herself that she
perceives in her husband's adultery, whereas a husband's experience of sexual
jealousy is relatively invariant, his wife's adultery almost always being perceived as
threatening" (p. 232). And he is explicit about the hypothesized function:" ... the
ultimate function of male sexual jealousy is to increase the probability that one's
PSYCHOLOGICAL TOPICS 22 (2013), 2, 155-182
wife will conceive one's own rather than someone else's child ..." (p. 242). Symons
makes clear that jealousy as a solution to the problem of jeopardized paternity
probability does not imply the presence of a conscious male motive involving
compromised paternity.
Regarding sex differences, Symons makes clear that he is not proposing that
men have a greater capacity for jealousy or experience jealousy any more intensely
than do women when it is activated. And indeed, studies that assess jealousy using
"global" measures such as "how often do you experience jealousy" or "when
jealous, how intense are your feelings" mostly show no sex differences (Buss,
2000). "When wives do experience jealousy, there is no reason whatever to believe
that their experiences are any weaker or stronger than husbands' experiences"
(Symons, 1979, p. 245).
Nonetheless, Symons does hypothesize that women's jealousy is not inevitable
or "obligate." His rationale is that humans evolved in the context of mild polygyny,
in which women sometimes had to share a husband with one or more co-wives.
The key to women's jealousy, according to Symons, is the magnitude of threat
posed by her mate having sex with another women: "A husband's dalliance may
have no effect whatsoever on his wife's reproductive success or it may presage a
liaison that will entail a reduction in the husband's investment in his wife and her
children; furthermore, today's paramour may be tomorrow's co-wife" (p. 246).
Consequently, he hypothesizes that selection favored a context-conditional jealousy
adaptation in women with the capacity to distinguish threatening from non-
threatening adultery, and to experience jealousy as a function of the perceived
threat to the husband's investments. In contrast, from a man's perspective, his mate
having sexual intercourse with another man always poses some risk of decrease in
paternity probability, assuming that she is not pregnant or post-menopausal.
Although Symons argues that male sexual jealousy is more invariant and
'obligate' than female sexual jealousy, he does propose contexts in which male
sexual jealousy can be suppressed or deactivatednotably, in the context of wife-
swapping, 'swinging,' and polyamory. He suggests that these activities are
motivated by men's evolved desire for sexual variety, and that having sexual access
to other women in an exchange is a tradeoff for allowing other men to have sex
with his wife. Nonetheless, studies of swinging and polyamory do note that
jealousy is a pervasive problem in their communities (Buss, 2000), suggesting that
it is difficult to entirely suppress male sexual jealousy when witnessing or knowing
that a wife is having sex with other men.
The next milestone in the evolutionary analysis of jealousy came from Martin
Daly and Margo Wilson (Daly et al., 1982; Wilson & Daly, 1992). They argue that
jealousy cannot be defined purely as an internal emotion nor purely as an external
situation. Instead, sexual jealousy is "a complex psychological system whose
Buss, D.M.: Sexual Jealousy
function is inferred from observable combinations of circumstance and responsea
system that is activated by a perceived threat that a third party might usurp one's
place in a sexual relationship and that generates a diversity of circumstantially
contingent responses aimed at countering the threat" (Wilson & Daly, 1992, p.
Like Symons (1979), they note that sexual jealousy and their somewhat
broader construct of "male sexual proprietariness" should have sex-differentiated
design features due to the different adaptive problems men and women historically
have faced as a consequence of mate infidelity and sexual interlopers. First,
because human reproductive biology entails internal female fertilization, males face
the problem of investing resources in putative children that are actually sired by
rival menan adaptive problem not faced by women. Consequently, male sexual
jealousy should focus heavily on sexual infidelity per se. Second, males risk losing
the mating partner to an intrasexual rival if she leaves the relationship entirelyan
adaptive problem men and women both face (Wilson & Daly, 1996). Male sexual
jealousy, therefore, should focus heavily on solving these two key adaptive
Women's probability of maternity is not affected in the slightest by her
husband's sexual infidelity. A man's sexual infidelity, however, does
probabilistically jeopardize the man's investments, attentions, and resources, all of
which could be channeled away from a woman and her children and diverted to the
female sexual interloper.
Daly and Wilson cite two empirical studies that suggest sex differences in the
psychology of sexual jealousy. In a study of dating couples' responses to
hypothetical jealousy-inducing scenarios, men reported greater concern and distress
about their partner's sexual contact with a rival male (Teismann & Mosher, 1978).
Women, on contrast, expressed concern about allocation of their boyfriend's time,
attention, and money to rival women. A similar sex difference was discovered
using a different methodology by Francis (1977).
Most importantly, Daly et al. (1982) and Wilson and Daly (1992, 1996)
document extensive empirical evidence that male sexual jealousy is the key
emotion behind enormous amounts of mating-related violence. They show that
men's non-lethal and lethal violence is triggered by ecologically valid cues that are
probabilistically linked with threats to the man's exclusive sexual access to his mate
centrally cues to sexual infidelity and cues to defection from the mating
Moreover, they document that women at the greatest risk of jealous violence
are young women those who are highest in reproductive value. This may seem
paradoxical at first blush. Why would the most valuable mates be the targets of the
most intense violence? Daly and Wilson argue that precisely because young
PSYCHOLOGICAL TOPICS 22 (2013), 2, 155-182
women are so valuable, sexual jealousy and proprietariness will be maximally
activated. In a general sense, organisms can be expected to have adaptations to
guard with varying degrees of ferocity resources as a function of their varying value
to reproduction. It's not worth allocating effort to monopolize resources with little
or no value. So Daly and Wilson suggest that the apparent paradox is not really a
paradox at all men are predicted to experience jealousy, and engage in mate
monopolization behavior ranging from vigilance to violence, as a function of the
reproductive value of their mates. Although not discussed explicitly by Daly and
Wilson, the same prediction should apply to womenthe intensity of jealousy and
consequent mate monopolization efforts should also vary as a function of the mate
value of their mates.
In summary, the evolutionary analysis of jealousy by Symons and by Daly and
Wilson provide a major theoretical foundation for the evolutionary analysis of
jealousy. Rather than being viewed as a pathology, a character defect, a product of
culture, or a product of capitalism, sexual jealousy is conceptualized as a functional
emotion. The core function is retaining access to a valuable mate. Jealousy,
according to this view, should be activated by threats to the mateship threats of
sexual infidelity by the mate, threats coming from potential mate poachers, and
threats that the mate might defect from the relationship.
Importantly, although men and women are predicted to be equally jealous
when confronted with these relationship threats, the psychological design of
jealousy should differ between the sexes. Men more than women should focus on
the sexual aspects of relationship threat, since ancestral men faced an adaptive
problem no ancestral woman on earth has ever faced the problem of
compromised probability of being the genetic parent. Women risk a lot by a
partner's sexual infidelity, but the risk is the loss of a different reproductively
valuable resourcethe mate's time, investments, and effort, all of which could get
allocated to a rival woman and her children.
Interestingly, Wilson and Daly (1992) paved the way for research unknown at
the time, predicting that "The impact of factors that an evolutionist would consider
crucial to the domains of mate selection and mate guardingages, reproductive
condition, joint and separate life histories, aspects of the resource circumstances of
the mates and any rivals ... have yet to be (empirically) addressed" (p. 303). As we
will see, subsequent research addressed precisely these and other key variables that
an evolutionary analysis suggests will be critical to the psychological design of
sexual jealousy.
Buss, D.M.: Sexual Jealousy
Sex-Differentiated Design Features of Cues Activating Sexual Jealousy
Subsequent theorizing and research on jealousy built upon the foundation
provided by Symons (1979) and Daly and Wilson (Daly, Wilson, & Weghorst,
1982; Wilson & Daly, 1992, 1996). Buss (2000, 2012) proposed that jealousy
might help to solve the adaptive problems of relationship threat in several ways.
First, it might sensitize a man to circumstances in which his partner might be
unfaithful, thus promoting vigilance. Second, it might prompt actions designed to
curtail his partner's contact with other men. Third, it might cause him to increase
his own efforts to fulfill his partner's desires so that she would have less reason to
stray. And fourth, jealousy might prompt a man to threaten or otherwise fend off
rivals who show sexual or romantic interest in his partner. Echoing the evolutionary
logic of Symons, Daly, and Wilson, Buss and colleagues (1992) predicted that
men's jealousy, more than women's, should focus heavily on the potential sexual
contact that his partner might have with another man.
Women also face a profound adaptive problem because of a partner's
infidelity. Because men often (but not always) channel resources and investments
to women with whom they have sex, a man might devote time, attention, energy,
and effort to another woman and her children rather than to his regular mate and
her children. For these reasons, women's jealousy, more than men's, is predicted to
focus on cues to the long-term diversion of a man's commitment. Buss and
colleagues (1992) proposed that one of the key cues to this long-term diversion of a
man's resources is the degree to which he becomes emotionally involved with
another women, such as falling in love with her.
Prior to the work of evolutionary psychologists, dozens of empirical studies
had explored the psychology of jealousy. The most common finding was that men
and women do not differ in either the frequency or magnitude of the jealousy they
experience. In retrospect, it is clear that the failure to find sex differences stemmed
from the use of domain-general or global measures of jealousy, such as the
intensity or frequency of jealousy experienced, uninformed by an evolutionary
analysis of sexual jealousy.
Sex differences in reaction to threatening jealousy dilemmas. In the first
systematic test of the hypothesized sex differences, 511 college students were asked
to compare two distressing events: (A) Their partner having sexual intercourse with
someone else, or (B) Their partner becoming emotionally involved with someone
else (Buss et al., 1992). Fully 83% of the women found their partner's emotional
infidelity more upsetting, whereas only 40% of the men did. In contrast, 60% of the
men experienced their partner's sexual infidelity as more distressing, whereas only
17% of the women did. This constitutes a huge 43% difference between the sexes
in their responses, which is large by any standard in the social sciences. By posing a
PSYCHOLOGICAL TOPICS 22 (2013), 2, 155-182
more precise question not whether each sex experiences "jealousy," but rather
which precise triggers of jealousy are more distressing this evolutionary
psychological hypothesis was able to guide researchers to discover a sex difference
that had previously gone unnoticed by mainstream jealousy researchers.
Those who are dispositionally or chronically more jealous show even larger
sex differences in jealous responses to sexual versus emotional infidelity (Miller &
Maner, 2009). This latter finding highlights the importance of integrating stable
individual differences with evolutionary theories of sex differences in personality
(Miller & Maner, 2009).
Cross-cultural robustness of sex differences in reaction to jealousy dilemmas.
These sex differences have now been replicated in Germany, the Netherlands,
Korea, and Japan (Buunk, Angleitner, Oubaid, & Buss, 1996). They have also
been replicated in Brazil (de Souza, Verderane, Taira, & Otta, 2006), England
(Brase, Caprar, & Voracek, 2004), Romania (Brase et al., 2004), Sweden
(Wiederman & Kendall, 1999), Norway (Kennair, Nordeide, Andreassen, Strønen,
& Pallesen, 2011), Spain, Chile (Fernandez, Sierra, Zubeidat, & Vera-Villarroel,
2006), and Ireland (Whitty & Quigley, 2008). In sum, men's jealousy, compared to
that of women, appears to be relatively more sensitive to cues of sexual infidelity.
Women's jealousy, compared to that of men, appears to be relatively more sensitive
to cues of emotional infidelity the same sex differences have been found in all
cultures that have been studied to date.
Sex differences in physiological responses to jealousy dilemmas. Verbal
reports are reasonable sources of data, but ideally, converging evidence from other
data sources is more scientifically compelling. To explore the generality of the
above findings across different scientific methods, 60 men and women were
brought into a psycho-physiological laboratory (Buss et al., 1992). To evaluate
physiological distress from imagining the two types of infidelity, the experimenters
placed electrodes on the corrugator muscle on the brow of the forehead, which
contracts when people frown; on the first and third fingers of the right hand to
measure electrodermal response, or sweating; and on the thumb to measure pulse or
heart rate. Then participants were asked to imagine either a sexual infidelity
("imagining your partner having sex with someone else ... get the feelings and
images clearly in mind") or an emotional infidelity ("imagining your partner falling
in love with someone else get the feelings and images clearly in mind").
Subjects pressed a button when they had the feelings and images clearly in mind,
which activated the physiological recording devices for 20 seconds.
The men became more physiologically distressed by the sexual infidelity.
Their heart rates accelerated by nearly five beats per minute, which is roughly the
equivalent of drinking three cups of strong coffee at one time. Their skin
conductance increased 1.5 microSiemens with the thought of sexual infidelity. And
Buss, D.M.: Sexual Jealousy
their corrugator frowning increased, showing 7.75 microvolt units of contraction in
response to sexual infidelity, as compared with only 1.16 units in response to
emotional infidelity.
Women tended to show the opposite pattern. They exhibited greater
physiological distress at the thought of emotional infidelity. Women's frowning, for
example, increased to 8.12 microvolt units of contraction in response to emotional
infidelity, as compared with only 3.03 units of contraction in response to sexual
infidelity. The convergence of psychological reactions of distress with
physiological patterns of distress in men and women strongly supports the
hypothesis that humans have evolved mechanisms specific to the sex-linked
adaptive problems they recurrently faced over evolutionary history.
Although not all published studies replicate the physiological sex differences
(e.g., Harris, 2000), the weight of subsequent studies has robustly supported them
(see Buss, 2012, for a summary). For example, the most thorough and well-
conducted study was published by Pietrzak, Laird, Stevens, and Thompson (2002).
They found the predicted sex differences using four physiological measures: heart
rate, electrodermal activity (skin conductance), electomyographic activity (brow
corrugators contraction), and skin temperature. A subsequent study also found
support for the predicted sex differences using fMRI techniques, which measure
neurophysiological activation (Takahashi et al., 2006). Future studies using
physiological measures, including replications of fMRI, would be of great value in
testing the theory of evolved sex differences in yealousy (Sagarin et al., 2012).
Cognitive design features of sexual jealousy. Achim Schutzwohl (2004, 2006)
performed a series of laboratory experiments using standard cognitive procedures
such as decision time, information search, cognitive preoccupation, and memorial
recall in response to jealousy-inducing scenarios and stimuli. Schutzwohl and Koch
(2004) used an entirely new method that has never been used in jealousy research.
They had participants who were currently romantically dating listen to a story about
their own romantic relationship in which an infidelity was said to have occurred.
Embedded within the story were five cues that had been previously determined to
be cues highly diagnostic of sexual infidelity (e.g., He suddenly has difficulty
becoming sexually aroused when you and he want to have sex) and five cues highly
diagnostic of emotional infidelity (e.g., He doesn't respond any more when you tell
him that you love him). In a surprise memorial recall test a week later, men more
than women spontaneously remembered more cues to sexual infidelity (42 percent
versus 24 percent), whereas women more than men remembered more cues to
emotional infidelity (40 percent versus 29 percent). These findings support the
hypothesis that sex differences in jealousy are quite real and cannot be dismissed as
an "experimental artifact" (Schutzwohl & Koch, 2004).
PSYCHOLOGICAL TOPICS 22 (2013), 2, 155-182
Collectively, the studies by Schutzwohl and his colleagues show that men
more than women showed faster decision time, greater information search, more
cognitive preoccupation, and better memorial recall of the sexual aspects of
infidelity stimuli and scenarios. Women, in contrast, showed faster decision time,
more intense information search, greater cognitive preoccupation, and better
memorial recall of the emotional aspects of infidelity stimuli and scenarios. In
short, the psychological design of sexual jealousy does not merely consist of
affective components; it also includes the ways in which women and men perceive,
search, encode, and remember information about the details of a partner's infidelity.
Characteristics of mating rivals. A partner's potential and actual infidelities
constitute key threats to a valued romantic relationship. Another key threat comes
from intrasexual rivals. Abundant evidence suggests that mate poaching is a
common human mating strategy (Schmitt & Buss, 2001; Schmitt et al., 2004).
Although sometimes seen as morally repugnant, mate poaching has an evolutionary
logic in that many desirable potential mates are already in existing romantic
relationships. Indeed, in many or most traditional cultures, most post-pubescent
females are married (Symons, 1979). Given a mildly polygynous mating system
characteristic of humans, most cultures contain a pool of unmated bachelors and a
more limited pool of unmated females, creating a great incentive for mate
poaching. Mate poaching by rivals can have the goal of a short-term sexual
temptation or a longer-term mating relationship.
Sexual jealousy, consequently, should be activated to the degree that the rival
or potential mate poacher poses a viable threatif the rival exceeds an individual
on key components of mate value. Since key components of mate value are
universally sex-differentiated, different rival characteristics should pose sex-
differentiated threats and evoke sex-differentiated levels of jealousy or emotional
distress. A cluster of predictions following from this hypotheses was tested in
Korea, the Netherlands, and the United States (Buss, Shackelford, Choe, Buunk, &
Dijkstra, 2000).
In all three cultures, men more than women report greater distress when a rival
surpasses them on financial prospects, job prospects, and physical strength. And in
all three cultures, women report greater distress than do men when rivals surpass
them on facial attractiveness and bodily attractiveness. Although additional cross-
cultural tests are needed, the fact that precisely the same sex differences in upset
due to rival characteristics emerged in cultures as diverse as The Netherlands and
Korea supports the key evolutionary hypothesis about jealousy evoked by rivals
differing in sex-differentiated qualities linked to male and female mate value.
Potential mate poachers pose threats to the degree to which they more closely
embody the mate value qualities desired by each sex. Moreover, other studies
document that men are more distressed by a partner's heterosexual affair than by a
Buss, D.M.: Sexual Jealousy
partner's homosexual affairillustrating in a different context that jealousy focuses
on viable rival threats, in this case one that jeopardizes paternity probability
(Confer & Cloud, 2011).
Table 1. Sex Differentiated Design Features of Sexual Jealousy
Relative Upset About Sexual and Emotional Aspects of Infidelity
Men more than women give more weight to sexual aspects of infidelity.
Women more than men give more weight to emotional aspects of infidelity.
Cross-cultural Robustness of Relative Upset About Aspects of Infidelity
Germany, the Netherlands, Korea, Japan (Buunk, Angleitner, Oubaid, & Buss, 1996), Brazil (de
Souza et al., 2006), England (Brase, Caprar, & Voracek, 2004), Romania (Brase et al., 2004),
Sweden (Wiederman & Kendall, 1999), Norway (Kennair, Nordeide, Andreassen, Strønen, &
Pallesen, 2011), Spain (Fernandez et al., 2007), Chile (Fernandez, Sierra, Zubeidat, & Vera-
Villarroel, 2006), and Ireland (Whitty & Quigley, 2008).
Cognitive Design Features of Sexual Jealousy
Men preferentially process cues to sexual infidelity.
Women preferentially process cues to emotional infidelity.
Men more quickly process cues to sexual infidelity.
Women more quickly process cues to emotional infidelity.
Men show greater memorial recall of cues to sexual infidelity.
Women show greater memorial recall of cues to emotional infidelity.
Physiological Design Features of Sexual Jealousy
Men show greater EEG, EMG, heart rate, and skin temperature when imagining a partner having
sexual intercourse with a rival.
Women show greater EEG, EMG, heart rate, and skin temperature when imaging a partner
falling in love with a rival.
fMRI study shows sex-differentiated pattern of brain activation to sexual versus emotional
Counter-jealousy Tactics Following Discovery of One's Infidelity
Upon discovery of one's infidelity, men more than women deny any emotional involvement with
the extra-pair partner.
Upon discovery of one's infidelity, women more than men deny any sexual involvement with the
extra-pair partner.
Jealousy Induced by Rival Characteristics
Men more distressed by rivals with greater job and financial prospects.
Men more distressed by rivals who are physically stronger.
Women more distressed by rivals who are higher in facially attractiveness.
Women more distressed by rivals who are higher in body attractiveness.
PSYCHOLOGICAL TOPICS 22 (2013), 2, 155-182
Table 1. Continued
Jealous Mate Retention Behaviors
Men married to physically attractive women show more intense mate guarding.
Men married to younger women show more intense mate guarding.
Men show more intense mate guarding when partner is both physically attractive and near
Women married to men with higher income show more intense mate guarding.
Women married to men higher in "status striving" show more intense mate guarding.
Jealous Interrogations Following Discovery of Infidelity
Did you have sex with him? Men more likely to grill partner about sexual aspects.
Do you love her? Women more likely to grill partner about emotional aspects.
Forgiveness or Breakup Following Infidelity
Men, relative to women, find it more difficult to forgive a sexual infidelity.
Women, relative to men, find it more difficult to forgive an emotional infidelity.
Men, relative to women, are more likely to break up following a sexual infidelity.
Women, relative to men, are more likely to break up following emotional infidelity.
In short, a formidable body of research has documented a number of sex-
differentiated design features that define the evolved emotion of sexual jealousy
(see Table 1). Men and women differ in their relative upset about sexual and
emotional infidelity, which correspond to the sex-differentiated adaptive problems
they historically faced in the context of forming long-term mateships. These sex
differences are robust across methods (e.g., forced choice dilemmas, measures of
physiological distress) and across a wide spectrum of cultures. The sex differences
emerge in studies of information processing of infidelity cues speed of
processing, attention, information search, and memorial recall. Moreover, sexual
jealousy shows sensitivity to rivals who pose threats, depending on sex-
differentiated components of mate value: job prospects, financial prospects, and
physical strength (men more than women); facial and body attractiveness (women
more than men).
The empirical evidence supports the hypothesis that sexual jealousy is a basic
or primary emotion. It evolved to guard against threats to a valued romantic
relationship and possesses highly predictable sex-differentiated functional design
features. Despite lacking a distinctive facial expression, there is no reason, from the
perspective of modern evolutionary psychology and biology, not to consider sexual
jealousy a basic evolved emotion that should be included within any
comprehensive theory or taxonomy of emotions (see Sabini & Silver, 2005, for
Buss, D.M.: Sexual Jealousy
arguments for including both jealousy and parental love as basic emotions from an
evolutionary perspective).
Behavioral Output of Jealousy: Mate Retention Tactics, Interrogation
Following Infidelity, Forgiveness, and Breakups
Emotions such as sexual jealousy could not evolve unless they influenced
behavior, either directly or indirectly. Studies of the behavioral output of sexual
jealousy have focused on a broad class of behaviors called mate retention tactics
(Buss, 1988b; Buss & Shackelford, 1997). Buss (1988b) developed a taxonomy
and corresponding measurement instrument consisting of 104 acts of mate
retention, clustered into 19 mate retention tactics. These ranged from vigilance
(e.g., checking up on a partner, dropping by unexpectedly, snooping through mail)
to violence (e.g., threats, hitting).
Men's, but not women's, intensity of mate retention was predicted by their
wife's ageyounger wives are recipients of more mate retention effort than older
wives. Specifically, men married to younger women were more likely to conceal
their wives from other men, monopolize their time, punish flirting and other signals
that their wife might be unfaithful, engage in emotional manipulation, ratchet up
their signals of relationship commitment, increase the flow of resources, increase
their signals of possession with words, physical proximity, and jewelry, threaten
rivals with violence, and actually direct violence toward potential mating rivals
(Buss & Shackelford, 1997). These effects remain robust even after controlling for
the age of the men doing the mate guarding. Interestingly, age discrepancies
when men were married to women substantially younger than themselvesalso
predicted the intensity of men's mate retention tactics, an effect also found by Daly
and Wilson (1988) in the context of violent tactics. Importantly, age-related
predictors of men's mate retention tactics remained strong after statistically
controlling for "length of relationship." No such correlates were found between the
husband's age and the wife's mate retention tactics.
Analogous correlations supported the hypothesis that men would devote
greater mate retention effort as a function of the physical attractiveness of the wife.
Husbands' perceptions of their wife's physical attractiveness proved particularly
predictive of mate retention tactics, especially increased vigilance, commitment,
resource display, verbal signals of possession, physical signals of possession, and
intrasexual threats. Haselton and Gangestad (2006) replicated this effect in a
sample of dating couples, finding that a woman's physical attractiveness was a large
predictor of the intensity of men's mate retention tactics. In contrast, women's
perceptions of their husband's physical attractiveness were either uncorrelated with,
or slightly negatively correlated with, their mate retention tactics.
PSYCHOLOGICAL TOPICS 22 (2013), 2, 155-182
Women's mate retention tactics, in contrast to those of men, were significantly
predicted by their husband's financial income and by the intensity of his status
striving (Buss & Shackelford, 1997). Women married to men with higher earnings,
for example, engaged in more vigilance, more appearance enhancement, and more
possessive ornamentation. Women married to men high in status striving tended to
punish their mates for flirting and other cues to infidelity, engage in emotional
manipulation such as guilt induction, provide sexual inducements, enhance their
appearance, and engage in more verbal signals of possession in public contexts. In
short, the intensity of women's mate retention tactics were predicted by sex-
differentiated components of mate value, notably their husband's financial earnings
and the effort their husbands allocated to getting ahead in the status hierarchy.
Beyond these within-sex predictors of mate retention tactics, the study of
married couples also reveals overall sex differences in the types of mate retention
tactics deployed. Men more than women reported using resource display and
intrasexual threats to retain their mates. Women more than men reported using
appearance enhancement and verbal signals of possession in public contexts to
retain their mates.
In summary, the behavioral output of sexual jealousy in mate retention tactics
shows all the hallmarks of "special design" that are sought in documenting an
adaptation (Williams, 1966). Men and women differ predictably in the types of
mate retention tactics they use, with appearance enhancement being more often
used by women and resource display being used more often by men. And sex
differences in the components of mate valuenotably resources, status, youth, and
physical attractiveness predict the intensity of sex-differentiated effort allocated
toward retaining spouses.
Jealousy interrogations and relief following the discovery of infidelity. Other
studies have discovered other design features of sex differences in the behavioral
output stemming from the psychology of jealousy. One study found that women
experienced more psychological relief when they discovered that their partner was
not emotionally unfaithful, whereas men experienced greater relief upon the
disconfirmation of a partner's sexual infidelity (Schutzwohl, 2008). Women more
than men inquire about the emotional nature of a partner's extra-pair relationship,
whereas men more than women inquire about the sexual nature of a partner's extra-
pair relationship (Kuhle, Smedley, & Schmitt, 2009; Schutzwohl, 2006).
In another study of real-life jealousy interrogations, Kuhle (2011) examined
actual infidelities captured on video through the reality program Cheaters. In coded
analyses of interrogations captured on video upon discovery of their partner's
infidelity, men more than women grilled their partners about the sexual aspects of
the infidelity. Women, in contrast, grilled their partners about the emotional aspects
of the infidelity. Among the most common questions posed by men was: Did you
Buss, D.M.: Sexual Jealousy
have sex with him? For women, among the most common interrogations was: Do
you love her?
Forgiveness or breakup following infidelity. When people discover that a
romantic partner has betrayed them with an infidelity, they face a major decision:
Should they forgive the partner and remain in the relationship or should they break
up and end the relationship? The cross-cultural finding that infidelity is a major
cause of divorce suggests that many choose to break up (Betzig, 1989). But not all
do. The aftermath of infidelity undoubtedly depends on a variety of factors, such as
family pressure, the presence of dependent children, and whether the betrayed
partner is economically dependent on the unfaithful partner. Another key influence
might be the particulars of the infidelity, and whether it involved sexual, emotional,
or economic components.
Using a forced-choice procedure, Shackelford, Buss, and Bennett (2002)
found that men, relative to women, reported they would find it more difficult to
forgive a sexual infidelity than an emotional infidelity. Moreover, men, more than
women, would be more likely to terminate a current romantic relationship
following a partner's sexual infidelity compared with an emotional infidelity.
Women showed the opposite pattern of responses, being more likely, relative to
men, not to forgive and to terminate a relationship following an emotional infidelity
than a sexual infidelity. Confer and Cloud (2011) found the exact same pattern in a
separate study.
In summary, sex-differentiated behavioral output of jealousy follows patterns
predicted in advance by evolutionary theories of jealousy. Men devote more effort
to mate retention when their wives are young and attractive, two key cues to
reproductive value. Women devote more effort to mate retention when their
husband have high earnings and engage in high levels of status striving. Verbal
interrogations following from the discovery of infidelity are also well predicted by
the evolutionary account. Men more than women interrogate their partners about
the sexual aspects of an infidelity, women more than men about the emotional
aspects. And whether men and women forgive their partners following an infidelity
depends, at least to some extent, on whether the infidelity involved a sexual liaison
or a deep emotional involvement that presages the long-term re-allocation of
Sexual jealousy is a basic emotion in the sense that it evolved, shows a high
level of functional complexity, and shows all the hallmarks of 'special design'
required by standard in modern evolutionary biology and psychology. It lacks a
PSYCHOLOGICAL TOPICS 22 (2013), 2, 155-182
distinctive facial expression. Sexual jealousy in romantic relationships solves
problems of mating, and may or may not promote survival (sibling jealousy,
involving competing for parental resources, might promote survival a key
argument that highlights the different 'design features' of jealousy in different
relationships). Yet sexual jealousy fulfills all the key criteria for solving adaptive
problems inherent in long-term committed mating threats to valued sexual and
romantic relationships.
Unlike chimpanzees, who mate primarily when females enter estrus, humans
have long-term committed mating in their strategic repertoire. Just as social
exchange cannot evolve without solving the problem of cheater-detection (those
who take benefits without reciprocating as promised or implied) (Cosmides &
Tooby, 2005), long-term mateships could not have evolved without adaptations that
functioned to minimize the probability of cheating in committed relationships. Just
as there exist temptations to defect in social exchange, there exist temptations to
gain benefits by diverting reproductively valuable resources to those outside of a
committed mateship. Sexual jealousy is the emotion that evolved to combat this
collection of threats – to guard against sexual or investment infidelity, to fend off
interested mate poachers, and to motivate mate retention. In this sense, sexual
jealousy is not only a basic emotion, it is a necessary emotion. Long-term
committed mating could not have evolved in humans without an adaptation that
increased the probability of reaping the reproductive rewards of the extraordinary
investment expended and mating opportunity costs incurred when committing to a
single mate. Sexual jealousy in mating relationships is that adaptation.
There now exists a considerable body of scientific research that supports the
hypothesis that sexual jealousy is a fundamental evolved emotion. Although much
of this research has focused on testing specific predictions about sex differences in
the psychological design of jealousy, it is important not to overlook gender
similarities or commonalities (Buss & Haselton, 2005). These include: (1) that
jealousy is a complex emotion designed to alert an individual to threats to a valued
mating relationship; (2) that jealousy is activated by the presence of interested and
more desirable intrasexual rivals; and (3) that jealousy functions, in part, as a
motivational mechanism with behavioral output aimed to deter "the dual specters of
infidelity and abandonment" (Buss, 2000). Tests of predictions about gender
differences should be interpreted within the context of these gender commonalities.
It is important to understand the historical context of theory and research on
jealousy prior to modern evolutionary theoretical perspectives. Jealousy did not
figure prominently in theories of emotions. It was not considered basic or primary,
even by those adopting evolutionary perspectives that tied emotions to distinctive
facial expressions, presence in other primates, or to solutions to survival problems.
Theories of jealousy in mainstream social sciences explained it by invoking
Buss, D.M.: Sexual Jealousy
arbitrary social constructions, character defects, the Oedipal complex, capitalism,
culture, or pathology. Jealousy was regarded as sexually monomorphic in
psychological design, essentially identical in men and women.
The introduction of a modern evolutionary psychological perspective on
jealousy proved highly generative. It yielded a number of specific predictions about
psychological, cognitive, physiological, and behavioral design features entirely
missed by, and missing from, prior scientific research. An impressive body of
research has now tested many of these sex-differentiated predictions. As in all
social science research, every study contains flaws and limitations, and one can
reasonably challenge the design and methods of any particular study. The weight of
the scientific evidence, however, is more important than the details of any
particular study, and that is how the merits of scientific theories are evaluated.
A recent meta-analysis of 209 effect sizes from 47 independent samples, for
example, confirmed the robustness of the sex differences in relative sensitivity to
emotional versus sexual infidelity (Sagarin et al., 2012). This robustness extends to
studies that assess reactions to actual infidelities, not merely hypothetical
infidelities. New studies continue to discover additional sex differences, such as in
jealous interrogations following the discovery of an actual infidelity (Kuhle, 2011).
Undoubtedly, there are other design features and behavioral manifestations of
sexual jealousy that have yet to be discovered.
This now formidable body of theory and research poses a challenge to
emotion theorists and researchers. It calls for a modern evolutionary analysis of the
issue of which emotions are properly considered to be "primary" or "basic." It calls
for the inclusion of jealousy in any emotion theory that aspires to be
comprehensive. And judging from the tremendous range of sometimes-destructive
consequences that follow from jealousy, from the devastating experience of
humiliation to the horrors of homicide, jealousy is certainly a contender in the
human panoply of emotions for "one of the most important. "
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Received: July 24, 2013
... На почве ревности совершается большое количество убийств, в особенности мужчинами, причем жертвами могут становиться даже те женщины, отношения с которыми уже разорваны [8]. По результатам исследования, проведенного профессором факультета психологии Техасского университета Д. Бассом [9], мужчины, совершившие убийства на почве ревности, чаще всего делали это, когда подозревали или знали о неверности своего полового партнера, либо когда считали, что разрыв неизбежен и неотвратим. Женщины реже мужчин убивают своих партнеров на почве ревности, однако они могут совершить убийство, пытаясь защититься от ярости своего ревнивого партнера [8]. ...
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Данная статья посвящена изучению ревности с позиции эволюционной психологии. В статье рассматривается происхождение феномена ревности как результата эволюции психологии и раскрытие функции ревности в межличностных отношениях.
Friendships provide material benefits, bolster health, and may help solve adaptive challenges. However, a recurrent obstacle to sustaining those friendships—and thus enjoying many friendship-mediated fitness benefits—is interference from other people. Friendship jealousy may be well-designed for helping both men and women meet the recurrent, adaptive challenge of retaining friends in the face of such third-party interference. Although we thus expect several sex similarities in the general cognitive architecture of friendship jealousy (e.g., it is attuned to friend value), there are also sex differences in friendship structures and historical functions, which might influence the inputs of friendship jealousy (e.g., the value of any one friendship). If so, we should also expect some sex differences in friendship jealousy. Findings from a reanalysis of previously-published data and a new experiment, including both U.S. student and adult community participants (N = 993), provide initial support for three predicted sex differences: women (versus men) report greater friendship jealousy at the prospective loss of best friends to others, men (versus women) report greater friendship jealousy at the prospective loss of acquaintances to others, and men's (but not women's) friendship jealousy is enhanced in the context of intergroup contests.
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Research on romantic jealousy has traditionally focused on sex differences. We investigated why individuals vary in romantic jealousy, even within the sexes, using a genetically informed design of ~7700 Finnish twins and their siblings. First, we estimated genetic, shared environmental and nonshared environmental influences on jealousy, Second, we examined relations between jealousy and several variables that have been hypothesized to relate to jealousy because they increase the risk (e.g., mate-value discrepancy) or costs (e.g., restricted sociosexuality) of infidelity. Jealousy was 29% heritable, and non-shared environmental influences explained the remaining variance. The magnitude and sources of genetic influences did not differ between the sexes. Jealousy was associated with: having a lower mate value relative to one's partner; having less trust in one's current partner; having been cheated by a previous or current partner; and having more restricted sociosexual attitude and desire. Within monozygotic twin pairs, the twin with more restricted sociosexual desire and less trust in their partner than his or her co-twin experienced significantly more jealousy, showing that these associations were not merely due to the same genes or family environment giving rise to both sociosexual desire or trust and jealousy. The association between sociosexual attitude and jealousy was predominantly explained by genetic factors (74%), whereas all other associations with jealousy were mostly influenced by nonshared environmental (non-familial) factors (estimates >71%). Overall, our findings provide some of the most robust support to date on the importance of variables predicted by mate-guarding accounts to explain why people vary in jealousy.
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Sex differences in jealousy responses to sexual and emotional infidelity are robust in samples of heterosexual adults, especially in more gender egalitarian nations. However, investigations of when and how these differences develop have been scant. We applied two forced choice infidelity scenarios in a large community sample of high school students (age 16–19, N = 1266). In line with previous findings on adults using the forced choice paradigm, adolescent males found the sexual aspect of imagined infidelity more distressing than adolescent females did. Nevertheless, there was no effect of age on the jealousy responses, and age did not moderate the sex difference. There were neither any effects of three covariates (having had first sexual intercourse, being in a committed romantic relationship, and sociosexuality), neither as markers of pubertal maturation nor as psychosocial environmental stimuli. Future research needs to investigate even younger samples in order to specify at what age the sex difference in jealousy responses emerges.
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Infidelity represents a major threat to relationships, often resulting in dissolution of couples. The process from infidelity to potential breakup was studied in 92 couples using questionnaires concerning hypothetical scenarios of sexual and emotional infidelity. Structural equation model analyses using couple data for both infidelity types suggest that the level of perceived threat to the relationship was the main predictor of likelihood of breakup for men and women. Following each type of imagined infidelity, this effect was partly mediated by forgiveness. For emotional infidelity, level of blame was associated with forgiveness and breakup. The effect of blame on breakup was fully mediated by keeping less distance. The mechanisms involved in these processes were highly similar for women and men.
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The aim of the paper is to identify psychosomatic evolutionary adaptations of hominids, which direct them at maximizing their reproductive success, and on the basis of which their various social structures are built. Selected features of the hominid last common ancestor were extracted; by reducing the influence of the social structure, they were defined as the hominid “sexual nature”; these considerations were supported by the analysis of sexual jealousy as a function of socio-environmental conditions. The “sexuality core” of a hominid female was defined as “selective polyandry”—the female selects the best males among those available; and of a hominid male as “tolerant promiscuity”—the male strives for multi-male and multi-female copulations with sexually attractive females. The extracted “sexuality cores” condemn hominids to a patriarchal social structure and thus to sexual coercion and jealousy. The source of male sexual jealousy is limited access to females. Hominid female jealousy of the male results mainly from the need for protection and support. Hominids’ social structures are determined by females’ sexual selectivity or opportunism and by their continuous or periodic proceptivity and estrus signaling. Evolutionary functions developed by women: out-estrus sexuality, copulation calls, multiple orgasms, allow them to obtain the best possible spermatozoid. The institution of marriage blocks the influence of sexual selection in the species Homo sapiens.
Close friendships are associated with greater happiness and improved health; historically, they would likely have provided beneficial fitness outcomes. Yet each friendship requires one's finite time and resources to develop and maintain. Because people can maintain only so many close relationships, including friendships, at any one time, choosing which prospective friends to pursue and invest in is likely to have been a recurrent adaptive problem. Moreover, not all friends are created equal; some might be kind but unintelligent, some intelligent but disloyal, and so on. How might people integrate their friend preferences to make friend choices? Work using a Euclidean model of mate preferences has had significant success in elucidating this integration challenge in the domain of mating. Here, we apply this model to the domain of friendship, specifically exploring same-sex best and close friendships. We test and find some support for several critical predictions derived from a Euclidean integration hypothesis: People with higher Euclidean friend value (a) have best friends who better fulfill their best friend preferences, (b) have higher friend-value ideal best friends, and (c) have higher friend-value actual best friends. We also (d) replicate existing similar findings with regard to mating and (e) additionally provide a first test of whether people's Euclidean friend value (versus mate value) is a better predictor of their friend outcomes, and vice versa, finding some, albeit mixed, support for the dissocialbility of these constructs.
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Evolutionary mismatch concepts are being fruitfully employed in a number of research domains, including medicine, health, and human cognition and behavior to generate novel hypotheses and better understand existing findings. We contend that research on human mating will benefit from explicitly addressing both the evolutionary mismatch of the people we study and the evolutionary mismatch of people conducting the research. We identified nine mismatch characteristics important to the study of human mating and reviewed the literature related to each of these characteristics. Many of the people we study are: exposed to social media, in temporary relationships, relocatable, autonomous in their mating decisions, nulliparous, in groups that are socially segmented, in an educational setting, confronted with lots of options, and young. We applied mismatch concepts to each characteristic to illustrate the importance of incorporating mismatch into this research area. Our aim in this paper is not to identify all potential mismatch effects in mating research, nor to challenge or disqualify existing data. Rather, we demonstrate principled ways of thinking about evolutionary mismatch in order to propel progress in mating research. We show how attending to the potential effects of mismatch can help us refine our theoretical and methodological approaches and deepen our understanding of existing patterns in the empirical record. We conclude with specific recommendations about how to include consideration of evolutionary mismatch into research on human mating.
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Individuals vary in their intrasexual competitiveness attitude, i.e., an important variable reflecting the potential threat or the extent to which one perceives other individuals of the same sex as social or mating rivals. In this study, we investigated the relationship between self-perceived mate value, a construct usually linked to intersexual selection, and intrasexual competitiveness attitude. We postulated that those psychological traits that increase mate value are related to psychological traits underlying intrasexual competitiveness attitude. The results obtained from a sample of 711 young participants of both sexes ( M = 16.93 years ± SD = 0.86) indicated that mate value was positively related to intrasexual competitiveness attitude. Specifically, the subscales of Fear of Failure , Wealth , and Looks were positive predictors of intrasexual competitiveness attitude. Moreover, the Looks subscale was more relevant in determining intrasexual competitiveness attitude in women than in men. These three subscales were part of the same factorial structure that appears to be indicative of a self-promoting strategy based on the ostentation of traits through attitudes. As a conclusion, we argue that the individual differences in intrasexual competitiveness attitudes are associated with the differences in psychological features usually associated with intersexual selection.
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Jealousy is argued to be an adaptive emotion that coordinates the use of mate retention acts, denoting behavior intended to guard a relationship from rivals, to prevent infidelity, and to hinder defection from the mateship. Nevertheless, few researchers have examined these relations. We sampled 144 women and men in romantic relationships and found that anxious (unease over potential infidelity) and preventive (preventing one's partner from consorting with others) but not reactive (anger over a partner being unfaithful) jealousy positively predicted cost‐inflicting mate retention. Only anxious jealousy positively predicted benefit‐provisioning acts. Sex moderated the relations between reactive jealousy with cost‐inflicting and benefit‐provisioning behavior, such that reactively jealous women used more of both kinds of mate retention.
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This study tested the prediction derived from the evolutionary psychological analysis of jealousy that men and women selecting the adaptively primary infidelity type (i.e., female sexual and male emotional infidelity, respectively) in a forced-choice response format need to engage in less elaborate decision strategies than men and women selecting the adaptively secondary infidelity type (i.e., male sexual and female emotional infidelity, respectively). Unknown to the participants, decision times were registered as an index of the elaborateness of their decision strategies. The results clearly support the prediction. Implications and limitations of the present findings are discussed.
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The authors explored the psychology of romantically attracting someone who is already in a relationship—what can be called the process of human mate poaching. In Study 1 ( N = 236), they found that attempts at poaching were relatively common and were linked with distinctive personality dispositions. Study 2 ( N = 220) documented that the perceived costs and benefits of poaching differed somewhat for men and women and depended on whether short-term or long-term poaching outcomes were targeted. Study 3 ( N = 453) found support for 5 evolution-based hypotheses about the perceived effectiveness of poaching tactics. Study 4 ( N = 333) found that poaching effectiveness was influenced by the type of relationship being encroached on—marital, dating, long distance, highly committed, just beginning, or about to end. Discussion focuses on the importance of placing mate poaching within the broader context of human sexual strategies. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
This study evaluates sex differences in response to sexual and emotional infidelity in two Spanish-speaking samples. An extension of previous findings with Anglo, European, and Asian students leads to the prediction that men report being more distressed by sexual than by emotional infidelity, and women report the reverse. Five hundred and eleven students from Spain and Chile respond to a questionnaire consisting of forced-choice-scenarios. Significant sex differences in jealousy as a function of type of infidelity emerges and this is consistent with previous research on jealousy.
The findings of a recent study of extradyadic involvements and sexual jealousy among college -age couples are reported. Evidence is brought to bear in support of the principal finding that several aspects of the jealousy experience (eliciting factors, manner of expression) can and do vary widely among individuals. Despite the apparent universality of the jealousy phenomenon, communication in couples is inhibited by the social disapproval associated with its occurrence, and consequently discrepancies such as those evidenced in this study may pass entirely unobserved. As a result, jealousy problems remain unresolved and may serve to trigger further dissension. In light of these findings, developing communication skills is identified as the appropriate treatment mode for sexual jealousy.