• Traitorous Texting: Addressing the Methodological Issue of Arousal in Romantic Jealousy Research

      Rasley, Rachel (2013-01-30)
      Many psychological studies have focused on jealousy in romantic relationships, often from the evolutionary view that men should be more distressed by sexual infidelity and women by emotional infidelity. One criticism of this research is that in studies using physiological methods, arousal is reported as indicating distress, when the arousal is actually ambiguous. The present study investigates the influence of arousal on reported jealousy by manipulating arousal itself. Two groups of participants were overwhelmed with non-sexual arousal (exercise) before completing infidelity manipulations; the other group completed the manipulations without exercising. All participants read cell phone text messages suggesting either emotional or sexual unfaithfulness, and were asked to imagine that their partners sent the messages to another person. The central predictions were as follows: first, that men and women in the no-arousal group would demonstrate the evolution-predicted sex difference; and second, that the sex difference would be either diminished or augmented under a condition of arousal, suggesting a misattribution effect or response facilitation effect, respectively. None of the hypotheses were statistically supported. However, trends among male participants appear to endorse a misattribution effect of arousal, implying that elevated arousal among men in response to sexual infidelity scenarios may not necessarily reflect elevated distress. In future studies of jealousy, researchers should consider arousal to be a possible confound.