New study suggests jealousy is an adaptation that promotes intrasexual competition between women in the form of gossip

New study suggests jealousy is an adaptation that promotes intrasexual competition between women in the form of gossip

New study suggests jealousy is an adaptation that promotes intrasexual competition between women in the form of gossip

A new study published in Evolutionary Psychological Science reported that upward comparison of appearance predicted increased envy in women; this, in turn, predicted a willingness to spread negative – but not positive – gossip about an attractive woman.

Since men (vs. women) value beauty more, women (vs. men) are more likely to compete in this domain. Envy – which is “characterized as an unpleasant, negative emotional response to another person or group of people that an individual views as having a superior quality, achievement, status, or possession that they wish and wish a rival would lack” can play an important role . motivator for intrasexual competition for women. This is especially relevant when making social appearances in the field of physical appearance, to gauge where one stands in relation to other women.

In this work, Rachael Morgan and colleagues examined “whether envy mediates the association between experimentally induced upward-appearance comparisons and women’s intrasexual gossip.” When women view their attractiveness as lower than the competition, they may be more motivated to participate in intrasexual competition.

Self-promotion tactics, which involve efforts to increase one’s partner value over members of the same sex, is one way to do this. Competitors’ derogation tactics, on the other hand, work to reduce the partner value of same-sex rivals relative to your own. Since the intent is to damage the rival’s reputation and diminish their desirability as a partner, such behavior is considered “aggressive intrasexual competition tactics”.

Indirect aggression can involve spreading negative gossip, and women (vs. men) have a preference for using gossip as an aggression tactic against same-sex competitors. Women, more than men, would respond to false accusations by attacking a rival’s reputation. Previous work has suggested that same-sex aggression is not random, but rather directed at the most attractive and sexualized women. To a lesser extent, women who compare their attractiveness with that of others are more likely to report indirect victimization by other women.

Emotions could have facilitated solving domain-specific problems in our evolutionary history. In women, jealousy is aroused when they feel threatened by the attractiveness of other women. Prior research has shown a motivational role of jealousy, with unfavorable appearance comparisons increasing jealousy in women, and in turn the attitudes and intentions of appearance-enhancing procedures (e.g., cosmetic surgery, applying makeup).

A total of 182 American and Canadian women between the ages of 18 and 39 were included in this study. The participants were told they would watch five ads and answer questions about them, as part of a “marketing study on the effectiveness of magazine ads.” The participants were randomly assigned to one of two conditions, where either five advertisements featuring a female model were viewed (condition for comparing appearance), or advertisements made by the same companies showing only the product (control condition).

Ads featuring a model featured a woman who was naked/wearing a bikini or bra and underwear. Control ads contain a collage of photos with people wearing designer clothes, or different products (eg beer bottle, car). Ads were viewed for 30 seconds. In the control condition, participants rated five statements specific to the ad/product on a 5-point scale (eg. “I like the layout of this ad”, “This ad is effective in promoting its product”

In the appearance comparison condition, participants rated the above statements, as well as the statements “I would like my body to look like this woman’s body”, “This woman is thinner or more beautiful than me”, “In a busy clothing store I would not like to try on bikinis in the same room as this woman if she was also bikinis to suit.”

Participants rated the extent to which they felt “jealous”, “hostile”, “inferior”, “desire for what another has”, “mediocre”, “motivation to improve”, “indignant”, “unhappy”, and “desirable” on a 7-point scale. These ratings were used to create a state jealousy score.

The participants then read a scenario with 4 pieces of positive information (eg speaks four languages, IQ of a genius) and 3 pieces of negative information (eg was unfaithful to previous boyfriend) about a woman named Veronica. They rated their likelihood of sharing each of these pieces of information, which was used to create positive and negative gossip scores.

Morgan and colleagues found that envy mediated the association between upward comparison of appearance and negative (but not positive) gossip about an attractive same-sex competitor. This model was replicated in two cross-sectional studies of female college students, which found that women who made upward comparisons more often also had more gossip and more indirect aggression toward other women. Importantly, these associations were explained by dispositional envy.

The authors conclude: “These findings provide empirical evidence to support the hypothesis that jealousy is an adaptive psychological mechanism that promotes compensatory behavior considering unfavorable social comparisons about important traits of partner value.”

This study recruited a North American, predominantly white sample, which may limit the generalizability of the findings, as well as possible arguments from a cross-cultural perspective.

The study, “Envy Mediates the Relationship Between Physical Appearance Comparison and Intrasexual Gossip in Women,” was authored by Rachael Morgan, Ashley Locke and Steven Arnocky.