Sex differences in jealousy: Misinterpretation of nonsignificant results as refuting the theory

Authors

  • JOHN E. EDLUND,

    Corresponding author
    1. Northern Illinois University
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    • John E. Edlund and Brad J. Sagarin, Department of Psychology, Northern Illinois University.

    • John E. Edlund is now at the Department of Psychology, Hamilton College.

  • BRAD J. SAGARIN

    1. Northern Illinois University
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    • John E. Edlund and Brad J. Sagarin, Department of Psychology, Northern Illinois University.


  • Some of these findings were initially presented at the 2007 Midwestern Psychological Association’s annual conference. We are gratefully indebted to George Neuman and our anonymous reviewers for feedback on earlier drafts of the manuscript. Finally, we wish to thank our research assistants Nikki Accurso, Megan Cannon, and Karen Raff.

John E. Edlund, Department of Psychology, Hamilton College, Clinton, NY 13323, e-mail: jedlund@hamilton.edu.

Abstract

Studies examining sex differences in jealousy using continuous measures have produced inconsistent findings. To  explain these inconsistencies, this study critically evaluates the criterion used to test the sex difference in jealousy, demonstrating that the Participant Sex × Infidelity Type interaction is the only relevant effect. Then, using a U.S.-based sample, the sex difference is investigated using 14 continuous-measure response formats, revealing a highly significant overall sex difference (p < .001, g= .300), despite the sex difference being nonsignificant for 9 of 14 individual formats. Results highlight the danger of falling prey to the belief in the law of small numbers, manifest in this debate as the erroneous interpretation of individual nonsignificant results as refuting the theory.

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