Sexual Jealousy from a Sociobiolgocal Perspective

This research topic submitted by Sam S. Roger P. Joshua E. ( on 2/25/98.

"Jealousy is a universal feeling. The feeling is normal until it is acted upon and the behavior or actions become irrational… Jealousy does not have boundaries. It penetrates all social positions, intellectual levels, ages, races, and economic strata" (Bernhard, xi). This project’s focus is to determine if what we have found out thus far, is still accurate. Buss conducted a survey on the reactions of men and women to jealousy and recorded the differences. The sociobiological perspective agrees with Buss’s assessment. Men tend to react more strongly to sexual indiscretion while women tend to find emotional infidelity more distressing. We will conduct our own experiment to see if it validates or refutes the above arguments. The theoretical context or standpoint will be from a sociobiological perspective as well as from a cross-cultural point of view. These examples will come from religious, legendary, and literary materials. Our methods of ensuring primary data will include our own analysis of other’s experiments and surveys that we create, conduct, and qualify.
In order to understand the theoretical context for the sociobiology of sexual jealousy, it would first be helpful to briefly explain the notion of sociobiology itself. Sociobiology explains aspects of human nature in terms of the theory of evolution, based on the 95% existence of the human race in the Pleistocene age. Sociobiology, or Evolutionary Psychology, serves to take a particular behavior (jealousy in this instance) and explain it as an adaptation which somehow enhances fitness in a particular environment. We have chosen to examine the aspects of sexual jealousy from a sociobiological standpoint. This type of jealousy involves a perceived threat to an intimate, committed relationship between two individuals, most often sexually or physically involved.
The basis for the sociobiological standpoint on jealousy deals out and out with paternity confidence: involving the fundamental physiological differences between men and women. Males have a high food intake for their larger and more energetic bodies. Men also have a much greater amount of testosterone than females. The resulting differences is that men are larger, stronger, and more aggressive. The man was designed (evolutionarily speaking) to have as many offspring as possible because of a low paternal investment rate. Women on the other hand, are designed to have only a few children?with a high rate of paternal investment. "Paternal investment is the energy expended by parents to produce and nurture offspring. More accurately the term refers to the decrement in future reproductive potential as a consequence of present effort" (White and Mullen, 60). The mother always knows who her children are, and has a naturally high level of parental confidence. Her reproductive strategy is to have a few children and protect them; a male’s is to have as many children as possible in the hopes that at least a few will survive. As a result his natural tendencies lean toward aggression and displays of physical prowess. This is to attract desirable mates in order to perpetuate his genes, as well as to protect his mate from other males. It also accounts for the male desire to mate with as many females as possible. As a result the male is very concerned with paternity confidence. In humans, however, sexual dimorphism for males is very low and paternal investment is very high. As a result the male needs to have a very high instance of paternity confidence?to make sure his genes are being passed on. As a result jealousy is one of his main weapons in terms of ensuring paternity confidence. This results in many things. Men become very upset, even violent, at an instance of sexual indiscretion by a mate. This is to protect their investment and it is one of the few tools they have to do it (White and Mullen).
Women, on the other hand, have bodies that run on a proportionately small amount of food in comparison to males. They use this energy efficiency for gestation and lactation. Their relatively high paternal investment is to pass their genes on. In the human species, because of low male sexual dimorphism they require a higher level of investment from men. Women raise their children and expect and require resources from their mates. When these resources become threatened, then the woman becomes jealous to protect her interests and those of her children (White and Mullen).
In summary high male investment explains the relatively weak sexual dimorphism in humans, while the necessity of paternity confidence has led to human males having sexual jealousy marked by violence and consistent attempts to restrict the sexual behavior of women. Female jealousy is centered more on concerns related to paternal investment than on male extrarelationship sexuality per se, as greater paternal investment should increase the chance of survival for the female’s offspring. In short, sociobiological theory holds that female jealousy is marked by fear and anxiety over losing the relationship and by an interest in the nature of the rival relationship, whereas male jealousy, focusing on the sexual threat of the rival, is marked by competitiveness and aggression, and is much less affected by situational factors suggesting that the mate is still interested in maintaining the primary bond.
Aside from the scientific studies that have been done on jealousy, there is further proof that it is a fundamental part of human nature: and that is its existence in every culture on the planet as well as its appearance in religions. The definition of God is a lord who tolerates no other gods beside him and who describes himself as so jealous that he will visit the "sins" of the fathers upon the children unto the third or fourth generation (Baumgart, 82). God the Father, in whose image humanity was created (as man and woman), who was viewed throughout almost two thousand years of Western history as the revealed and therefore true God (and still is), and who is mentioned in constitutions, names of political parties, and school regulations?this God is jealous (Baumgart, 83). When we consider God’s jealousy, we arrive at "the innermost part of the personal and living God, and are led to admiring contemplation of the mirabilia Dei". Jealousy as a "mirabilium Dei," something that is to be admired in God?not, therefore, how awful that God is jealous, but how wonderful. Furthermore, it is less a matter of the concept of jealousy (and possibly its exemplariness) than of showing what God is like, with the help of the concept of jealousy. Because, as we may conclude, jealousy is something so well known everyone is familiar with it; on the other hand, it is something so strange, alien and fearful that it qualifies as an attribute of God, who is termed "the hidden one" by theologians in many different centuries.
"He is jealous, because he loves": this assumes that it is obvious that someone who loves is also someone who is jealous (Baumgart, 84).
It is not just Christianity, in which Jealousy plays a role. Stories abound in mythology of Jealousy and the havoc it wreaks. Numerous tales of the affairs of Greek Gods and the revenge their mates take upon those unfortunate mortals touched by another of the Pantheon’s love. Many a woman was transformed by Hera, for mating with Zeus. A war was fought over Helen of Troy. Sir Tristram of Lionness, died because of a broken heart caused by Iseult who loved him, over another Iseult whom he loved. Jealousy even affected the greatest swordsman of Japan, Miyamoto Musashi(a Kensai, who sought enlightenment through study of the sword). His childhood best friend attacked him out of jealousy for his success and for the love of a woman (needless to say, his friend lost). However, while the above two paragraphs are more than adequate in showing the existence of jealousy in many different cultures it is not the only evidence. There is further scientific proof on the subject.
In one study, for example, Buss asked males and females to imagine that their mates were having sex with someone else or that their mates were engaged in a deep emotional commitment with another person. Monitoring his subject’s heart rates, frowning and stress responses, he found that the stereotypical double standard cuts both ways. Men reacted far more strongly than women to the idea that their mates were having sex with other men. But women reacted far more strongly to the thought that their mates were developing strong emotional attachments to someone else.
The methods we plan to use are threefold. We plan to do our own analysis of Buss’s experiment. First we plan to reenact Buss’s experiment, if possible. In order to do that, we will have to visit the psychology department and see if they have the appropriate equipment. In addition, we will have to learn how to use the necessary equipment or have someone on hand to help us interpret the results. Obviously, we do not have the training to record the medical readouts of the necessary machines, or even to properly interpret the signs of physiological stress on the body caused by this experiment. To this end we will need to seek help. Then we also plan to create our own survey and do our own analysis of the results. We plan on surveying the student body of Miami University as well as members of the local population. Finally we also thought it might be useful to use a jealousy quiz online and see what sort of answers we got. If we could have other members of the western community fill one out and give us the results, it would help us out tremendously. Perhaps it might be possible to contact the owner of the page where a quiz is listed and get all their results: in light of the fact we are endeavoring in academic project.
When we obtain our results, we plan on putting them into use as a basis for our theories. We hope to use this research in order to prove the sociobiological aspects of jealousy. The process will include analyzing our findings and incorporating them into a scientific paper that can be used as the basis for others’ theories. If possible, we will use graphs and charts, created with StatView or a program called StataQuest, in order to visually explain the results we take in.
We hope this project will reinforce the materials we have already researched. Everything seems to point the way of the sociobiological argument?it seems almost like common sense. We are also fully aware, however, that people (for the most part) are autonomous rational beings and capable of consciously controlling natural impulses. In the event that our own research does not support that of Buss and sociobiology we will have to take that into consideration. We plan to use the cultural and religious contexts, as well as the sociobiological argument as our context for research. The research may include the reproduction of previous studies, our interpretation of their results (and ours, naturally), and our own research. We will find out whether or not Buss and the sociobiologists are still correct.

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