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Just friends? Women are more jealous than men of their spouse’s opposite-sex friends, study reveals

Just friends? Women are more jealous than men of their spouse’s opposite-sex friends, study reveals

  • Participants read scenarios involving their spouse meeting a new friend
  • The friend was either attractive or unattractive, and male or female
  • Feelings of jealousy were higher when the spouse’s friend was the opposite sex
  • Women reported higher levels of jealously overall than men

From Harry Potter to My Best Friend’s Wedding, many blockbuster films feature friendships between men and women.

Now, a new study has shed light on the ‘green-eyed monster’ when it comes to these friendships.

Researchers from the University of Texas in Austin claim that women are more jealous than men of their spouse’s opposite-sex friends.

From Harry Potter to My Best Friend’s Wedding (pictured), many blockbuster films feature friendships between men and women

Researchers from the University of Texas in Austin claim that women are more jealous than men of their spouse's opposite-sex friends

Researchers from the University of Texas in Austin claim that women are more jealous than men of their spouse’s opposite-sex friends

Did we evolve to be jealous? 

Researchers from the University of California recently pinpointed jealousy in the brain of monkeys, and claimed we inherited the trait to help protect our most valuable resources.

The researchers found two key areas of the brain are stimulated by jealous feelings – the cingulate cortex and lateral septum – which are geared toward maintaining a bond in the face of external challenge. 

The team found feeling jealous could actually be an evolutionary advantage, and we may have inherited it from our ancestors because it helps us protect resources such as our homes and children. 

While previous studies have focused on sex differences in jealousy, the researchers set out to assess whether men and women differ when it comes to jealousy of their spouse’s opposite-sex friends.

In their study, published in Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences, the researchers, led by Alyssa Sucrese, wrote: ‘Past research in evolutionary psychology has proposed, and found evidence of, sex differences in the adaptive functions of jealousy.

‘However, no research has focused specifically on the output of jealousy adaptations in the context of a spouse’s apparently platonic extramarital friendship.’

A group of 364 participants were recruited for the study, all of whom were married and at least 18 years old.

The participants were randomly assigned into one of four groups, in which they read different scenarios involving their spouse meeting a new friend of varying sex and attractiveness.

They were asked to judge whether they felt any jealousy in the scenario, and to attribute it to emotional or sexual concerns.

The results revealed that feelings of jealousy were higher when the spouse’s friend was the same sex as the participants.

Women reported higher levels of jealously overall than men when imagining the spouse’s friend was female.

This suggests that women’s feelings of jealousy are more associated with attractiveness, according to the researchers.

While previous studies have suggested that men are more jealous of sexual infidelity, the results did not show any sex differences in jealousy about sexual concerns.

However, men were more emotionally upset when their spouse’s friend was attractive – regardless of their sex.

Men may worry that an attractive male is a potential rival, while an attractive female can serve as a ‘wing woman’, according to the team.

Men may worry that an attractive male is a potential rival, while an attractive female can serve as a 'wing woman', according to the team (stock image)

Men may worry that an attractive male is a potential rival, while an attractive female can serve as a ‘wing woman’, according to the team (stock image)

‘Perhaps emotional jealousy functions as an adaptive solution to any situation that threatens diversion of a mate’s resources and investment, not just diversion to a potential mate,’ the researchers concluded.

The study comes shortly after researchers from the University of California pinpointed jealousy in the brain of monkeys, and claimed we inherited the trait to help protect our most valuable resources.

The researchers found two key areas of the brain are stimulated by jealous feelings – the cingulate cortex and lateral septum – which are geared toward maintaining a bond in the face of external challenge. 

The team found feeling jealous could actually be an evolutionary advantage, and we may have inherited it from our ancestors because it helps us protect resources such as our homes and children. 

ARE MEN WITH SHORT AND WIDE FACES MORE LIKELY TO CHEAT?

Researchers from Nipissing University in Canada looked at how different facial features affect sexual behaviours.

The study involved 314 undergraduate students who were in romantic relationships.

Each student completed a questionnaire about their behaviour, sex drive, sexual orientation, the chances they’d consider cheating, and how comfortable they were with the concept of casual sex.

The researchers also took a picture of each student to analyse their facial width-to-height ratios (FWHR).

Scientists have found that men and women with short and wide faces are more sexually motivated and likely to cheat than people with faces of other dimensions. Pictured is footballer, Wayne Rooney, who has previously cheated on his wife, Coleen

Scientists have found that men and women with short and wide faces are more sexually motivated and likely to cheat than people with faces of other dimensions. Pictured is footballer, Wayne Rooney, who has previously cheated on his wife, Coleen

The results showed that men and women with a high FWHR – square and wide faces – reported a greater sex drive than others.

Men with a larger FWHR were also more easy-going when it comes to casual sex and would consider being unfaithful to their partners.

The researchers hope the findings will shed light on the role that facial features play in sexual relationships and mate selection.

Their research builds upon previous studies that have shown that certain psychological and behavioural traits are associated with particular facial width-to-height ratios (FWHR).

Square-faced men tend to be perceived as more aggressive, more dominant, more unethical, and more attractive as short-term sexual partners than men with thinner and longer faces. 



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