Sexual jealousy can affect women’s can ability to see clearly
The study found that women who were made to feel jealous were so distracted by unpleasant emotional images they became unable to spot targets they were trying to find. The researchers suggest that their results reveal something profound about social relationships and perception.
It has long been known that the emotions involved in social relationships affect mental and physical health, but now it appears that social emotions can literally affect what we see.
The research appears in the April issue of the journal Emotion, published by the American Psychological Association.
University of Delaware psychology professors Steven Most and Jean-Philippe Laurenceau and their colleagues tested heterosexual romantic couples in a laboratory experiment.
The romantic partners sat near each other at separate computers. The woman was asked to detect targets (pictures of landscapes) amid rapid streams of images, while trying to ignore occasional emotionally unpleasant (gruesome or graphic) images.
The man was asked to rate the attractiveness of landscapes that appeared on his screen. Then the person conducting the experiment announced the male partner would now rate the attractiveness of other single women.
At the end, the females were asked how uneasy they felt about their partner rating other women’s attractiveness.
The more jealous the women felt, the more they were so distracted by unpleasant images that they could not see the targets.
This relationship between jealousy and “emotion-induced blindness” emerged only during the time that the male partner was rating other women, helping rule out baseline differences in performance among the women.
In these experiments, it was always the women who searched for a target. The researchers don’t yet know what will happen when the roles are reversed and men’s jealousy is tested.