Romantic Jealousy and Self-Esteem

In case you missed it, the cameras were rolling at the 23rd APS Annual Convention in Washington, DC. Watch Jessica L. Bowler from Pitzer College present her poster session research on “Self-Esteem and Components of Romantic Jealousy.”

Bowler distributed a survey that described four scenarios designed to induce romantic jealousy. Then she analyzed participants’ responses in relation to self-esteem. She found that participants with high self-esteem were less likely to be jealous after reading the scenarios. Participants with low self-esteem were likely to become more insecure, more anxious, more distressed, and less trusting in response to hypothetical infidelity situations.


Hypothetical infidelity situations? Would love to know what they are separated between female and male responses first.

I’m just afraid results can be skewed when you show a male what may be considered infidelity by a female and the opposite for the male.

The other question I have would be how is low and high self esteem definitely determined. I was wondering how definite a science that was at this point.

Hello! I’m Jessica, and I did this study for my senior undergraduate thesis. Hopefully I can answer your questions quickly.

With regards to gender differences: All the scenarios were gender-neutral in their wording. We did separate them between male and female in the analysis and found no statistically significant differences in the intensity of jealous reactions, nor on a composite jealousy score. Despite lots of research that says men should be more jealous of physical infidelity, and women should be more jealous of emotional infidelity, none of our analyses supported this hypothesis.

Self-esteem: We used the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale and created a composite self-esteem score. Using this composite score, we correlated general levels of self-esteem with overall levels of jealousy (based on a composite score). Our results showed that higher levels of jealousy were generally associated with lower self-esteem.

A high-low ‘definite’ split proved inappropriate for our sample, as it either forced categorizing people with moderate self-esteem as ‘low’, or left us with too-small groups of ‘low’ self-esteem individuals. Taking these issues into account, correlation was a much more useful tool.

Given that our sample was taken from a pretty privileged population (college students at a private four-year institution), we weren’t too surprised to find that the vast majority of our participants had higher levels of self-esteem. Of course, a more diverse sample would provide a stronger analysis, but I think we have a good starting point for a more in-depth look at this topic.

I hope that clears up any confusion or concerns you had over the study!

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