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Jealous of Your Partner: You View Yourself Similar to Your Rival

Update Date: Jul 13, 2013 02:43 AM EDT

Spotting your significant other flirting with someone else may leave you feeling a flood of emotions ranging from hurt, to anger and jealousy. Now a new study reveals that you may even start to think of yourself like your rival.

A new study led by Villanova University suggests just that: jealousy can prompt people to change how they view themselves relative to competitors for their partner's attention.

"A rival isn't someone that individuals should like, let alone want to affiliate with," Erica Slotter, of Villanova University, said in a news release. "This work was really novel in that we were looking at whether individuals would be willing to shift their self-views to be more similar to a romantic rival."

Slotter and her colleagues published three related papers online in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

According to the study, the team 144 heterosexual couples about their personal attributes, including artistic, musical or athletic ability. They investigated what happens to people when in a jealous state, predicting that people would only change their self-view if they thought their partner was interested in someone else. "This meant that individuals should not change their self-view if someone flirts with their partner, but the partner doesn't respond with interest," Slotter said.

One of these scenarios portrayed the couple walking through a shopping mall when an attractive individual walks by. One of the partners would have to imagine the other saying, "Did you see that guy/girl? That shirt looked really hot on him/her." Another scenario portrayed the same situation, but this time, a partner asks, "Don't you have that shirt? It looks much better on you than on him/her."

The researchers then asked the participants to imagine scenarios, and then they were given a personality profile of the potential rival. Each of the profiles had one attribute from the beginning of the study that the couples reported weren't accurate of their personality.  After seeing these profiles, the couples were then asked to re-rate their own personalities.

"Individuals who thought their romantic partner was interested in someone who was athletic or musically inclined reported themselves as more athletic or musically inclined at the end of the study than they had at the beginning," Slotter said.

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