Jealousy: novel methods and neural correlates

Emotion. 2009 Feb;9(1):113-7. doi: 10.1037/a0014117.


Because of the difficulties surrounding the evocation of jealousy, past research has relied on reactions to hypothetical scenarios and recall of past experiences of jealousy. Both methodologies have limitations, however. The present research was designed to develop a method of evoking jealousy in the laboratory that would be well controlled, ethically permissible, and psychologically meaningful. Study 1 demonstrated that jealousy could be evoked in a modified version of K. D. Williams' (2007) Cyberball ostracism paradigm in which the rejecting person was computer-generated. Study 2, the first to examine neural activity during the active experience of jealousy, tested whether experienced jealousy was associated with greater relative left or right frontal cortical activation. The findings revealed that the experience of jealousy was correlated with greater relative left frontal cortical activation toward the "sexually" desired partner. This pattern of activation suggests that jealousy is associated with approach motivation. Taken together, the present studies developed a laboratory paradigm for the study of jealousy that should help foster research on one of the most social of emotions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Facial Expression
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Jealousy*
  • Male
  • Motivation
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Sex Factors