The Science Behind Jealousy

Jealousy is one of the worst emotions that we, as humans, can feel. Whether it has to do with our significant other, friends, or even strangers, it is an emotion that everyone experiences at some point. It tends to bring out the worst in us and is a cause of many failed relationships or arguments between people.


So what drives jealousy? Is it our instinctive possession that we have over our loved ones and our jobs? Or are we secretly scared of losing these things to someone else? An important concept to take note of is the fact that jealousy is not the same thing as envy. By definition, envy involves wanting something that someone else has while jealousy is the fear of losing something to someone else. Professor of psychology Ralph Hupka describes jealousy as “an anticipatory emotion, seeking to prevent loss.”

When it comes to gender, psychologists believe that women tend to experience feelings of jealousy more often than men due to the fact that they are more in touch with their emotions yet both men and women become jealous for the same types of reasons. This includes the fear of losing something or someone that they deem important. An interesting study found that taller men seemed to be less jealous than shorter men. This could perhaps be attributed to the attractiveness and reproductive success that taller men have over shorter men. Another study found that women tend to be more jealous due to the higher expectations they have when it comes to loyalty, love, and commitment. Jealousy is also very common amongst multi-child households. More often than not, siblings tend to become jealous of one another because they compete for their parents’ attention and care. Adolescent jealousy mostly stems from the fear of losing a friend to someone else. Furthermore, studies have concluded that adolescents are more likely to become jealous when they have low self-esteem.

Though it seems impossible to avoid feeling jealous, there are actually ways in which jealous behavior can be controlled. One way is to be honest with your friends and significant other. Unspoken, negative feelings that develop over time can later expose themselves in a jealous way. Another way to avoid situations pertaining to jealousy is to maintain a healthy level of trust with the people that are most important to you.


1 thought on “The Science Behind Jealousy

  1. Ann

    Jealousy is an ugly emotion and it is interesting to know what part of people are more prone to jealousy. On the Oprah website there was an article that discussed different types of jealousy called “malicious jealousy” and “benign jealousy.” Malicious jealousy obviously is when we feel anger towards what others have but benign jealousy was explained to be possibly beneficial. The article depicted that benign jealousy “has an aspirational aspect—you think, “If she can do it, maybe I can, too.”‘ So at least if we’re prone to get jealous, there is at least some hope for positive jealousy.

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