The experience of jealousy negatively impacts both psychological and physical well-being; it can result not only in acute psychological distress, but also in violence aimed at relationship partners. Given this import, much research has attempted to illuminate the functioning of jealousy. Although this work has lead to a consensus regarding the phenomenology of jealousy, agreement regarding its underlying causal mechanisms remains elusive. To date, many competing theories abound, defining jealousy variously as a type of evolved response, dispositional trait, social construction, or equity mechanism. Such lack of consensus has lead to numerous predictions and findings that are often orthogonal and has, thereby, complicated understanding of the processes that underlie jealousy. Increased clarification of these processes stands as an important goal given the negative behavioral sequelae of jealousy. To address this need, a new theory of jealousy is presented that is based on a single mediating mechanism: threat to self-esteem. This theory is capable of integrating findings stemming from the many theoretical frameworks used to study jealousy through a model able to explain both inter- and intra-individual variation in jealousy as a function of biological, dispositional, and cultural influences on self-evaluation. The purpose of the present application is to provide an initial test of the fundamental postulate of this model: threats to self-esteem mediate jealousy and its associated aggressive behaviors. Although past research has been suggestive of the mediational role played by threat to self, direct evidence of its causal influence is lacking. To investigate this question, jealousy will be induced through the development and subsequent threatening of valued working relationships involving participants and confederates acting as partners and rivals. Implicit as well as explicit measures of self-esteem will be used to assess quick and possibly unconscious alterations in self-esteem as well as to combat strategic attempts to conceal self-esteem threats. Manipulations of self-esteem will also be used in order to clarify the causal sequence. A final step will examine whether self-threats and the resulting jealousy lead to aggressive actions; measures of aggression aimed at partners and rivals will be included. Evaluation of the central postulate will provide important evidence regarding the viability of the proposed theory and shape subsequent examinations of its other tenets.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Small Research Grants (R03)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-RPHB-4 (01))
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Kozak, Michael J
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Northeastern University
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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DeSteno, David; Bartlett, Monica Y; Salovey, Peter (2006) Constraining accommodative homunculi in evolutionary explorations of jealousy: a reply to Barrett et al. (2006). J Pers Soc Psychol 91:519-23
DeSteno, David; Valdesolo, Piercarlo; Bartlett, Monica Y (2006) Jealousy and the threatened self: getting to the heart of the green-eyed monster. J Pers Soc Psychol 91:626-41