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Research: Jealousy makes sense from an evolutionary perspective
Jealousy is a difficult topic in many relationships, because if it dominates in a partnership, it can destroy it. German scientists have now shown on the basis of animal observations that jealousy makes sense in terms of evolutionary biology.
Animals are also jealous
Disproportionate jealousy can become a relationship killer. Animals use this feeling to secure their own position within a group. It now seems clear among experts that jealousy makes sense evolutionarily. A study on the subject of two zoologists from the universities of Regensburg and Greifswald was recently published in the journal Animal Behavior.
For their study, Konstanze Krüger and her colleague Gudrun Schneider observed four groups of wild horses with a total of 84 Esperia ponies in Abruzzo, Italy. It was shown that mares with a higher hierarchy always intervened when group members with whom they had close contact “nibbled” other horses. "Nibble" is a sign of affection among horses. The senior mares chased away the competitors and then "nibbled" themselves with the animal close to them. The mare's reaction was always the foreign animal and not the social partner. The scientists concluded that it is advantageous for hierarchically high-ranking horses to keep their social partners away from other animals within the group.
"This is about resources - namely the number of social partners with whom additional resources and descendants can be defended and the position in the hierarchy of the group can be secured," reports Konstanze Krüger. "The high-ranking mares want to prevent their lower-ranking social partners from migrating to other horses with little effort and without too much risk." Partnerships and social contacts are a strategy among animals to secure common resources, to keep the hierarchy within the group stable and ward off attacks from enemies.
Men and women are differently jealous
Jealousy is genetic. However, women and men differ in their jealousy. Psychologists from the University of Sunderland in England were able to prove this a few years ago. It was found that men were particularly jealous when the partner had sexual contacts with other men.
On the other hand, the emotional aspect is much more important to women. "Men want to know whether their rivals were good in bed," summarizes study director George Brase. "Women primarily want to know whether their partner loves another woman or not." This difference is easy to explain. While men can never be completely sure whether they are raising their own children or those of another, so-called cuckoo children, it is in the nature of things that women do not have to worry about it. Rather, they are looking for a permanent partner who can support the family. From an evolutionary perspective, sex is therefore not the top priority for women.
Not only the evolution but also the cultural background plays a crucial role in the expression of jealousy, as the British study showed. It turned out that Brazilian men were the most jealous. The Japanese, on the other hand, showed the least jealousy. The scientists explained this imbalance by saying that fertility plays a much less important role in Japanese culture than in Brazilian culture.
Love and jealousy "blind"
US psychologists from the University of Delaware published their study results in the journal "Emotion". Accordingly, not only love but also jealousy blinds. For the investigations, the researchers put pairs in the same room on different computers. The women had the task of identifying different goals in pictures. You should ignore emotionally unpleasant pictures that were displayed in between. At the same time, the men were shown landscape pictures, the beauty of which they were to assess. However, in order to artificially induce jealousy among women, they were told that their husbands looked at photos of other women who judged them on their attractiveness. Subsequently, the study participants were asked to report how uncomfortable it was for the partner to have assessed other women. It turned out that the more jealousy was, the more disturbed women were. Some were even unable to recognize the target objects in the pictures.
What helps against jealousy?
In the case of excessive jealousy, psychologists first advise those affected to tell themselves that there is no reason for suspicion. Discussions with the partner also help to get this certainty. However, this does not always work. Some sufferers know from the head that they have no reason to be jealous, but still cannot hide the negative feelings. Then jealousy should try to put aside all negative thoughts.
Consultation of a therapist is necessary in more serious cases. This is the case, for example, when a person concerned can no longer think of anything else, spies on his partner afterwards and tries to control him. This is not a normal form of jealousy, reports Gritli Bertram, social worker from Hanover. In particularly bad cases, there could even be violence between the partners. Therefore, it is advisable to consult a specialist at the first signs of pathological jealousy. Oversized fear of loss and low self-esteem are often behind this, explains the expert. (ag)
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