By Margarita Nahapetyan
Women literally can be blinded by jealousy, says a new study, suggesting that jealousy can really distract women so much that they fail to spot things in front of their eyes, therefore exposing the union with a partner to extreme danger.
In the new study, carried out by Steven Most and Jean-Philippe Laurenceau, two psychology professors from the University of Delaware, twenty five heterosexual romantic couples with an average age of 19-20 years old were seated next to each other at two separate computer screens. The experts asked the women to look for pictures of landscapes among rapidly flashing images, while trying not to concentrate on the occasional gruesome or sad picture.
At the same time, their male partners were asked to rate to what extent they liked the landscapes that were shown on their computer screen. Partway through the experiment, the investigators asked the men to rate the attractiveness of single women. At the end of the study, the women needed to report how uneasy and uncomfortable they felt about their partner checking out other women.
The results revealed that those ladies who felt more jealous had a harder time identifying the images of landscapes on their computer screen when their romantic partners were checking out and rating the attractiveness of other women, when compared to their counterparts who did not feel jealousy. Those women who felt more jealous correlated to those who could not see the target images for the latter half of the experiment.
Here is what the scientists assume could be going on: in general, human brain seems to be wired to prioritize particularly emotional information, therefore when the upsetting images appeared on the monitor, it would be quite hard for any person to ignore them. "When an emotional stimulus appears, it draws attention to itself - and thus draws attention away from other things that come immediately afterwards," Prof. Most explained, adding that when a person's attention is preoccupied in such a way, they are more likely to miss things that appear right in front of them.
According to the study's authors, it has been known for a long time that mental and physical health of people can be affected by emotions that are related to social relationships, but the results of this new study show that social emotions can actually affect what people see. At this point the experts don't know exactly what would happen if the roles were switched and women had to rate the attractiveness of handsome single men while their partners completed the picture task. Future studies could reveal whether men are more or less blinded by jealousy than their female peers, the researchers concluded.
The findings are detailed in the April issue of the journal Emotion, published by the American Psychological Association.