The Jealousy of Emotions and Sex : Leif Edward Ottesen Kennai6 min read

Professor Leif Edward Ottesen Kennai talk at TEDxTrondheim conference.

Full Text of Professor Leif Edward Ottesen Kennai talk titled: The Jealousy of Emotions and Sex at TEDxTrondheim conference.

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Leif Edward Ottesen Kennai – Psychologist

Here’s a question for you.

How do you get 16 million direct male line descendants?

Genghis Khan might have.


I know what you’re thinking. Not that.

My explanation is male sexual jealousy.

So what is jealousy?

Jealousy is a basic aversive emotion that motivates us to protect our relationship from breakup and infidelity. Jealousy motivates mate guarding vigilance and Mae attention tactics.

Jealousy is painful. It’s a dangerous emotion. It makes us possessive. And it makes us violent.

But without jealousy, we wouldn’t have pair bonding or love.

So how did we humans become able to be jealous?

Before we get on with the sciency bits, Jealousy was evidence in our culture, literature, and legal practices long before we knew anything about evolution or genetics. Long before we had the rudiments of a basic science of emotions.

Shakespeare wrote about the green-eyed monster. In the bards play Othello, he tells us the story of how the king was tormented by the belief that his wife was being unfaithful. The king was driven mad.

Consider how we all interested in whether or not it’s true. Consider how we all understand how tormented the king is. Genghis Khan and his male line family members have 16 million mainlined descendants along the Silk Road.

My explanation is this is due to male sexual jealousy. How wealth and power have to follow genes through history for such success.

The concept of genetic influence today is only possible due to cultural practices such as nepotism, succession of power, and transfers of wealth.

But she needs to secure genetic bloodlines too. So what does this have to do with jealousy? Isn’t it obvious what motivates? Secure genetic bloodlines.

The important questions are:

Where does the interest and who’s the father come from?

Where does the fear of being cuckolded that is raising another man’s child?

Why is that a human universal?

Remember Genghis and Shakespeare, You know, nothing of evolution or genetics. They couldn’t even learn through the life span that kept being cuckolded is a problem; because it’s only a problem from a selection perspective.

Think of it. There is no pain involved in being cuckolded. There is no way of learning the consequences of not being the father through the life span or through conditioning. The only answer is selection.

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Now, let’s be a little provocative and get your emotions online.

First, ladies. Imagine that your boyfriend bought you jewelry for Christmas and the slightly more expensive piece was the closest collaborator at work. She really deserves it. He claims without her close collaboration, friendship, and emotional support, he would not have survived the autumn.

They’re not having sex. I know this. The omniscient narrator of the story.

Is it OK? What may she get? May she even get anything?

Next, gentlemen, imagine your girlfriend got drunk at a party in the weekend and had sex with a guy there. She’s not in love with them. She doesn’t plan to leave you. They just had sex.

Is it all right? Usually, when I tell the story to my students, I get Hissy sounds at this point.

So what is the basic science behind these sex differences?

The major biological theory is Trivers parental investment theory, which explains differences between the genders and behavior based upon minimal investment in offspring by males and females in the specific species.

David Buss and Dave Schmidt have formulate to the specific application of this theory for humans. And in our research, it’s the best predictive theory of modern human sexual behavior. Specific features of our reproductive physiology lay the grounds for our sexual jealousy Psychology.

This is summed up in the saying, Mummy’s baby, daddy’s maybe.

I’ll repeat it because it’s important Mummy’s baby, daddy’s maybe. Most women know who the mother of the child is. It’s hard to give birth and not know. Most men just cannot know. Therefore, men seek maximum paternal certainty.

If my girlfriend has sex with other men, he might become an evolutionary dead end. Women, on the other hand, seek commitment and the emotional investment in their children.

It’s very rare among mammals. Actually, only about five percent of them do. But men actually do invest in their presumed offspring. Therefore, seeking commitment and partners is important for women. These basic differences, according to Buss, give us two different types of jealousy. Emotional jealousy, which is a fear of losing investment and commitment and sexual jealousy, which is the fear of one’s partner engaging in sex with others. And these two forms of jealousy are there for sex-differentiated.

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And no one actually knew about this before Buss’s original studies. Now, this theory has met with resistance and criticism. But my colleague Mons Bendixson and I have research, jealousy, considering different samples and different facets.

Some of our findings: A robust finding men report a high degree of sexual jealousy than women do. Women report a high degree of emotional jealousy than men do. The sex difference is primarily found during the reproductive years, and the sex difference is greatest in Scandinavian countries.

We do not find an effect of a prior history of being cheated or being or cheating upon one’s partner. We find the same results with continuous and discontinuous measures. And in general, women report the greatest amount of jealousy.

Also, we only find the sex difference in heterosexual comparisons. Lastly, in our recent research on the forgiveness of infidelity, we find that men have no clue as to how distressed women are by emotional infidelity. So most of our findings support the evolutionary perspective.

But the three things we have to discuss first, why are the sex differences greatest in Scandinavian countries? Many people believe there are no fundamental sex differences.

Further, there’s an expectation that sex differences should become smaller in more gender-egalitarian countries. But this is not true. There are some basic sex differences and some of these are exaggerated by gender-egalitarian countries.

One example is the Scandinavian gender-equality paradox, where we find that Norwegian women choose more traditional professions than women in less egalitarian countries.

And the current research prediction was that we would find a greater sex difference in Norway because of greater paternal investment in children.

Has jealousy evolved?

Many critics challenge me to prove that a specific mental mechanism has evolved. For jealousy, we can actually turn this around.

Could jealousy not evolve?

Consider our common ancestor with modern, promiscuous chimps, without pair bonding, without father investment, There’s no jealousy, but there is neither love.t

Through our evolutionary history. We changed. We started falling in love. We started bonding and father started investing in children.

The two important questions are:

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What would happen to women who did not secure investment in their children?

And what would happen to men who were interested in who their partners were having sex with?

Those naive of this would be outcompeted by for Jealous. Finally, what must have evolved? We have evolved to seek to avoid losing investment in the long-range of different relationships. The important thing is in most of these cases, we can learn through the lifespan, the negative consequences of losing investment.

Skinner, the founder of Radical Behaviorism, pointed out that if there is no feedback mechanism to condition behavior, natural selection is the explanation of adaptive behavior. Sexual infidelity doesn’t come with a feedback system. There is no pain involved in being cuckolded.

Those people who were naively cuckolded through evolutionary history are merely not our ancestors. They merely without knowing it, Evolutionary dead ends.

So where does this interest in whose side who come from? Why do we devise rules based upon bloodlines? Why even care?

The answer is selection. Those distressed by their partner cheating on them. Those who were motivated to prevent this simply outcompete that. Those who did not care. Jealousy’s a normal basic emotion. Despite being horrible.

What makes you and your partner jealous might be very different. If jealousy is exaggerated, you might want to seek couples therapy. However, without jealousy, pair bonding and father investment would not be evolutionary stable strategies. Love demands jealousy.

My claim is that the basic adaptation here. What has evolved is the male sexual jealousy module. It has to evolve. It’s found cross-culturally and across time. It’s created cultural practices. And it cannot be learned through the lifespan.

So how do you get 16 million descendants?

You need sexual jealousy and father investment, and the one does not come without the other. Male sexual jealousy is fundamental to hereditary rule and is therefore the foundation of empires.

Thank you.

– Leif Edward Ottesen Kennai

Professor Leif Edward Ottesen Kennai talk: The Jealousy of Emotions and Sex at TEDxTrondheim conference.