Lars Penke and Jens Asendorpf

Evidence for conditional sex differences in emotional but not in sexual jealousy at the automatic level of cognitive processing

European Journal of Personality

The two evolutionary psychological hypotheses that men react more jealous than women to sexual infidelity and women react more jealous than men to emotional infidelity are currently controversial because of apparently inconsistent results. We suggest that these inconsistencies can be resolved when the two hypotheses are evaluated separately and when the underlying cognitive processes are considered. We studied jealousy with forced-choice decisions and emotion ratings in a general population sample of 284 adults aged 20-30 years using six infidelity dilemmas and recordings of reaction times. The sex difference for emotional jealousy existed for decisions under cognitive constraint, was also evident in the decision speed, increased for faster decisions, and was stronger for participants with lower education. No evidence for a sex difference in sexual jealousy was found. Our results support the view of a specific female sensitivity to emotional infidelity that canalizes the development of an adaptive sex difference in emotional jealousy conditional to the sociocultural environment. Copyright (c) 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.