Are we still jealous? Infidelity in the age of social media

July 6, 2017, Springer

When men and women find social media messages indicating that their partner has been cheating on them, they show the same type of jealousy behaviour as finding offline evidence that their partner has been unfaithful. This is according to Michael Dunn and Gemma Billett of Cardiff Metropolitan University in the UK, who investigated how jealousy manifests between the sexes when people find compromising messages on their partner's social media accounts. The findings are published in Springer's journal Evolutionary Psychological Science.

As part of the study, 21 male and 23 female undergraduate students were shown imaginary Facebook messages in a Facebook format, revealing that their partners had been either emotionally or sexually unfaithful. Eight short messages along the lines of: "You must be my soulmate! Feel so bloody connected to you, even though we haven't slept together," (Emotional infidelity) and "You must be the best one-night stand I've ever had. Last night was out of this world sexy bum!" (Sexual infidelity) were shown to participants. The so-called "discovered" message was either composed and sent by the participant's , or came from someone else. Participants had to rate how distressed they would have felt if they had come across such messages while accessing their partner's Facebook messaging service without permission.

Men felt more distressed when they read social messages that revealed their partners' sexual rather than . However, women were more upset than men in response to emotional messages. The researchers also found that women were significantly more upset when a potential rival had written the message, compared to when it was composed by their own partners. For men, the opposite seemed to be true and they appeared to be more upset by imagining their partner sending rather than receiving an infidelity-revealing message. Irrespective of the contents, women overall were more upset than men when they had to imagine discovering an infidelity-related message.

The study supports evolutionarily derived theories that hold that there are differences in what triggers among men and , and in how they subsequently direct such feelings towards the cheating partner or the potential rival.

According to the researchers, it is important to understand the mechanisms underlying jealousy, and how it plays out in the digital age. Real or suspected partner infidelity that causes sexual or emotional jealousy is often given as the reason for domestic abuse and violence.

"Applying an evolutionary perspective to understanding the manifestation of jealous behaviour and how -related anger can trigger partner dissolution and domestic abuse may help counteract inevitable rises in such behaviours in an age where clandestine extra-marital relationships are facilitated by modern forms of media technology," explains Dunn.

Explore further: Jealousy—impact of sexual vs. emotional infidelity

More information: Dunn, M.J. & Billett, G. (2017). Jealousy levels in response to infidelity revealing Facebook messages depends on sex, type of message and message composer: Support for the evolutionary psychological perspective, Evolutionary Psychological Science, DOI: 10.1007/s40806-017-0110-z

Related Stories

Jealousy—impact of sexual vs. emotional infidelity

January 7, 2015
In the largest study to date on infidelity, Chapman University has learned men and women are different when it comes to feeling jealous. In a poll of nearly 64,000 Americans this study provides the first large-scale examination ...

Digital dating abuse especially bad for girls

June 27, 2017
Teens expect to experience some digital forms of abuse in dating, but girls may be suffering more severe emotional consequences than boys, according to a new study.

Women and men react differently to infidelity

October 8, 2015
If your partner has sex with someone else, it is considered infidelity - even if no emotions are involved. But it is also considered infidelity when your significant other develops a close personal relationship with someone ...

Infidelity perceptions differ between men and women

June 22, 2016
New research published in Sexual & Relationship Therapy has uncovered the different ways in which men and women perceive infidelity.

Recommended for you

It's okay when you're not okay: Study re-evaluates resilience in adults

August 16, 2018
Adversity is part of life: Loved ones die. Soldiers deploy to war. Patients receive terminal diagnoses.

Expecting to learn: Language acquisition in toddlers improved by predictable situations

August 16, 2018
The first few years of a child's life are crucial for learning language, and though scientists know the "when," the "how" is still up for debate. The sheer number of words a child hears is important; that number predicts ...

Men and women show surprising differences in seeing motion

August 16, 2018
Researchers reporting in the journal Current Biology on August 16 have found an unexpected difference between men and women. On average, their studies show, men pick up on visual motion significantly faster than women do.

Stress during pregnancy increases risk of mood disorders for female offspring

August 16, 2018
High maternal levels of the stress hormone cortisol during pregnancy increase anxious and depressive-like behaviors in female offspring at the age of 2, reports a new study in Biological Psychiatry. The effect of elevated ...

Letting PTSD patients choose method of treatment improves their health, quality of life: new research

August 16, 2018
Letting people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) choose between treatment methods improves their quality of life and reduces the disorder's symptoms, according to new research from Case Western Reserve University.

Dominant men make decisions faster

August 16, 2018
Hierarchies exist across all human and animal societies, organized by what behavioral scientists refer to as dominance. Dominant individuals tend to climb higher up the hierarchy ladder of their particular society, earning ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.