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The proper APA Style reference for this manuscript is:
BORDEAUX, D. I. (2005). Who is More Jealous, College Male or Females in Real Relationships or Imagined Relationships. National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 8. Available online at http://www.webclearinghouse.net/volume/. Retrieved September 28, 2023 .

Who is More Jealous, College Male or Females in Real Relationships or Imagined Relationships

Sponsored by: Brian Cronk (cronk@missouriwestern.edu)
Jealousy is an emotion that is felt by people all over the world. No one knows exactly why one person gets jealous and another does not, but we as humans are interested in who is more jealous, males or females. The purpose of this study was to find out, among college students, which gender is more jealous, and whether being in a relationship or not made a difference. Eighty participants from a northwestern Missouri University were given a survey, sampled Jealousy Scale and four hypothetical scenarios to respond to. A main effect for gender and relationship status was found, which affected jealousy scores, but no interaction between the two variables was found. Further examination into this area is welcome.

How jealous are you? Is that a question one can answer about him or her self? Which is the more jealous sex, male or female? Most males would probably say females. We could make different comparisons. Are single people more jealous than people in relationships, or maybe college students versus non-college students? Jealousy is an emotion that we often feel, but may not be able to explain where it comes from or why one person feels it more strongly than another. Does the fact that one is in a relationship increase that feeling? Does the length of time involved in a relationship make a difference? Studies have been done on all the above. A study done by Knox, Zusman, Mabon, and Shriver (1999), took 185 undergraduate college students at a southeastern university and gave them a nine-item questionnaire that determined the timing, presence, & sources of jealousy in their relationships. The study found that those in shorter relationships were more likely to report higher levels of jealousy. Shorter-term relationships were one year or less. The average reporting was a score of 5.3 (0=no jealousy, 5=average, 10=extreme jealousy) on a one to ten point scale. The most common source of jealousy was their partner talking to an ex, next was talking about an ex, & last was just being a jealous person. Another study done focused on sex differences with respect to the context of jealousy. Sargin and Guadagno (2004) reviewed two studies designed to find out why previous studies reported that females reported more extreme jealousy than males in response to sexual and emotional infidelity. The researchers wanted to find out whether the difference in sexes came out of the different ways the male and females interpreted the upper anchors of the jealousy scales. The first study found that women stated feeling extremely jealous in romantic relationships, more so than men. The second study found that if the upper anchors are changed and include specific relative information (“as jealous as I could possibly feel”), the sex difference in strength of reported jealousy would disappear.A third study done by Bassett (2005) compared predictions about sex differences in jealousy from two different perspectives: as a mate retention mechanism & as a general social comparison emotion. There were 214 women & 72 men that completed social dominance measures and rated how angry and hurt they felt after imagining four scenarios about their partner being unfaithful. The study found that found men more angry and hurt in response to sex, and women were angrier in response to sex, but equally hurt and angry in response to emotional infidelity. The above studies either focused on relationships, imagined infidelity, or college students. Past and present work has found that females report more jealousy or more intense jealousy than males, people in shorter-term relationships are more jealous, and that females report more jealousy in response to emotional instead of sexual jealousy, although they also reported equal amounts of jealousy for both. I was extremely interested in each, so I wanted to bring them all together. The purpose of this study was to determine who is more jealous, college male or females in real relationships or those who imagined being in relationships.


Data was collected from students enrolled at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph, Missouri. There were 80 participants, 41 males and 39 females. Of the 80 total participants, 40 were in a romantic relationship and 40 were not, therefore they had to imagine being in a relationship. The participants were from various backgrounds and ethnicities, ranging in age from 18 to 27. A fourth of the participants from a General Psychology course, another fourth of the participants were from an Honors General Psychology, and the remaining half were students who worked at my job or had classes with me. The subjects were not told they were taking a jealousy scale or that the study was about measuring jealousy. The title of the jealousy scale was also not on the handout.

The materials used were a short demographic survey, which included gender, age, major, and whether the subject was in a relationship or not and the amount of time in that relationship. A sample of Bringle, Roach, Adler, and Evenbeck’s (1979) Self-Report Jealousy Scale was used to rate the subjects’ own opinion of their amount of jealousy. The subjects were given four hypothetical situations to read and respond to, using a five-point scale to rate their reactions. Of the hypothetical situations, one was a platonic encounter, one was a sexual encounter, one was an emotional encounter, and one was a sexual and emotional encounter. Originally I planned to have each participant’s handout packet be color-coded to match the participants’ sex. For example, each male would receive a blue packet and each female would receive a green packet. This was to insure that each participant marked the correct gender, and not get away with being comic. I also planned to have each main character in the scenario be of the opposite sex of the participant. I ultimately decided against this because I did not want to prejudge or assume the sexual orientation of the participants. So I decided to make the character in the scenarios gender neutral. The character was referred to as “your partner”, and not “your girlfriend” or “boyfriend.” This was a better alternative because it allowed the participants to more easily put themselves and their partners in the situations. Because the subjects were not told they are completing a jealousy scale or that I was measuring jealousy, there was a minimal amount of deception used to control for any subject bias or the taking on of any uncooperative subject roles by the participants.

The study started with the participants being told that they are participating in a study on the behaviors of college students. They were told that participation was completely voluntary, their identity would be anonymous, and that they could withdraw at any time without any kind of penalty. Last, they were instructed that if they were not currently involved in a romantic relationship, to imagine being in one in order to respond to the hypothetical situations included in the packet. The subjects were given a packet including a demographical survey, the Self-Report Jealousy Scale, and the hypothetical situations. The participants had to rate their responses to the Jealousy scale and situations on a five-point scale. The Jealousy Scale ranged from 1= “pleased” to 5= “extremely upset.” The hypothetical situations responses ranged from 1= “not at all jealous” to 5 = “as jealous as I could possibly be.” The dependant variable was the subjects’ scores on the jealousy scale. The independent variables were the sex of the subjects and the real or imagined relationship status. I wanted to control for extraneous variables by keeping the title of the jealousy scale unknown and not revealing what was actually being measured to prevent the subjects from including any bias.

A 2x2 between-subjects ANOVA was calculated to examine the effect of gender (male or female) and relationship status (in a romantic relationship or imagine being in a romantic relationship) on Jealousy scores. A main effect for gender was significant (F (1,76) = 4.768, p<.05). The main effect for relationship status was significant (F (1,76) = 4.652, p<.05). The gender by relationship status interaction was not significant (F (1,76) = .037, p>.05). Upon examination, it appears that that sex of an individual does affect the individual’s jealousy score. The females scored higher than the males on the Jealousy Scale. (See Figure 1 for the average scores.) It is also evident that being in a romantic relationship or not has an effect on the individual’s jealousy score. Those in real romantic relationships scored higher than those who imagined being in a romantic relationship. (See Figure 1 for the average scores.) This means that females score higher on the Jealousy scale and scenarios than males, and that individuals in real relationships score higher than those who are not in real relationships on the jealousy scale and in response to the hypothetical scenarios. (See Figures 2-5 for the average scores.) I also found that participants who are in a relationship for six months to a year are more jealous than those who are in a relationship less than six months and those who are in a relationship of one year or longer.

This study shows that college females are more jealous than college males. It also shows that college students in real romantic relationships are more jealous than those who imagine being in a real relationship. An important find in this study is that there is no interaction found between sex and relationship status. Based on these results, it can not be said that females in real relationships are more jealous than females not in a real relationship. It is not known whether a male in a relationship is more jealous than a male who is not in a real relationship either. This is important because I hypothesized that females in real relationships would be most jealous, and those in relationships for shorter periods of time would be most jealous. This was not found. I also hypothesized that females would be more jealous in response to the sexual and emotional scenarios. This was supported. (See Figures 2 and 4). These results support my hypothesis that females are the more jealous sex. What I did not expect to find was that whether or not the female is in a relationship does not affect her jealousy. In doing this experiment, I was able to see some of what I expected and I also found some new things out. I expected to show that females in relationships would be most jealous. I did not see this. For future work, it is recommended to include neutral responses on the jealousy scale and scenarios. Many participants found themselves having to choose a response that was closest to how they would react, instead of exactly. It is also recommended that a larger sample be used, for generalizability reasons. The current study included a sample size of 80, but a larger sample may have yielded different results. In the beginning, I sought out to examine an experience I find truly intriguing, that of jealousy. This was done, using a sample of individuals from my own environment, and now that it has come to an end, I feel confident that readers can learn and benefit from it, and maybe even take it a step further to fit their own interests.

Bassett, J.F. (2005). Sex differences in jealousy in response to a partner’s imagined or emotional infidelity with a same or different race other. North American Journal of Psychology, 7, 71-84.Bringle,Roach, Adler, & Evenbeck. (1979). Self report jealousy scale. Retrieved on October 20, 2005, from http://www.hksrch.com.hk/quiz/jealous.htmKnox, D., Mabon, L., Shriver, L., & Zusman, M.E. (1999). Jealousy in college student relationships. College Student Journal, 33, 328-330.Guadagno, R., Sagarin, B. J. (2004). Sex differences in the contexts of extreme jealousy. Personal Relationships, 11,319-328.

Demographic Survey1. What is your age? _____2. Please check your gender? ___ Male ___ Female3. What is your major? __________________4. Are you in a romantic relationship? ____ Yes ____ NoIf so, how long? _____ Less than 6 months _____ 6 months to 1 year _____ 1 year or longer

Self Report Jealousy Scale

Please circle the number that best shows how true or false the items are for you according to this code:1= pleased2=mildly upset3=upset4=very upset5=extremely upset1. Your partner spends increasingly more time in outside activities and hobbies in which you are not included.Pleased: 1 2 3 4 5 :Extremely Upset

2. Your partner goes to a bar several evenings without you.

Pleased: 1 2 3 4 5 :Extremely Upset

3. Someone flirts with your partner.

Pleased: 1 2 3 4 5 :Extremely Upset

4. Your partner has sexual relations with someone else.

Pleased: 1 2 3 4 5 :Extremely Upset

5. Your partner expresses the desire that you both develop other romantic relationships.

Pleased: 1 2 3 4 5 :Extremely Upset

6. At a party your partner hugs someone other than you.

Pleased: 1 2 3 4 5 :Extremely Upset

7. Your partner spends increasingly more time at work with a co-employee you feel could be sexually attractive to your partner.Pleased: 1 2 3 4 5 :Extremely Upset

8. At a party your partner dances with someone you do not know.

Pleased: 1 2 3 4 5 :Extremely Upset

9. Your partner comments to you on how attractive another person is.

Pleased: 1 2 3 4 5 :Extremely Upset

10. At a party your partner repeatedly kisses someone you do not know.

Pleased: 1 2 3 4 5 :Extremely Upset

Hypothetical Scenarios

Please read the following hypothetical situations and respond as if the couple in the situation were you and your partner. Circle the best response. Use the scale below to rate you response.1 = Not at all jealous2 = A little jealous 3 = Jealous4 = Very jealous5 = As jealous as I could possibly be

Scenario #1 Your partner has not been spending much time with you lately. Every time you try to get them to go out with you, they say that they’re not in the mood. So one night after being turned down, with the same response “I’m not in the mood to go out tonight, maybe another time,” you decide to go out with some friends. As you are entering the movie theatre you see your partner inside at the concession stand with another person. They appear to be talking, not being romantic with one another, holding hands or standing very close.(Not at all jealous) 1 2 3 4 5 (As jealous as I could possibly be)Scenario #2 You get out of class early one day & decide to surprise your partner with lunch. As you walk up to their apartment you hear laughing coming from inside. As you get closer you see that the door is cracked open. You open the door to find your partner and another person having sexual relations in the living room. (Not at all jealous) 1 2 3 4 5 (As jealous as I could possibly be)Scenario #3 It’s a Friday night and you and your partner are watching movies on the couch. You have noticed that lately your partner has seemed distracted and quieter than usual. Suddenly your partner picks up the remote, pauses the movie, looks you in the eye and tells you “I don’t know how to say this with out hurting you, but I have to get it out. I met someone else and I really care about them. I think I might be in love.”(Not at all jealous) 1 2 3 4 5 (As jealous as I could possibly be)Scenario #4 You are on your way out the door to go to class, when you see a letter sitting on the table by the door. It has your name on the front and is in your partner’s handwriting. The letter says to meet you partner after class at your favorite restaurant. When you get there you partner is there with another person. After sitting down, your partner and the person look at one another, then at you and together they tell you how they met, developed feelings for one another, started having sex and now want to be together as a couple. Your partner says they wanted to be totally honest with you by telling you with their new love interest present.(Not at all jealous) 1 2 3 4 5 (As jealous as I could possibly be)


Submitted 12/8/2005 12:44:04 PM
Last Edited 12/8/2005 1:09:41 PM
Converted to New Site 03/09/2009

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