Feeling Jealous? It May Blind You

Strong emotions can temporarily wipe out vision, study shows.

ByABC News
April 20, 2010, 4:19 PM

April 21, 2010 — -- Jealousy can be so powerful that it can leave a person "functionally blinded," unable to see key images in their immediate environment. That's the core finding of a study by two psychologists at the University of Delaware, who have been running for cover ever since their study was published in the journal Emotion a few days ago.

Steven Most, a cognitive psychologist, and Jean-Philippe Laurenceau, a specialist in social relationships, conducted two experiments involving a total of 52 romantically involved couples on the Newark campus. They wanted to see if jealousy can be strong enough to cause "emotion-induced blindness."

Their research shows that women who admitted they were jealous when their guy ogled photos of other women (presumably female students at the university who were "accessible") couldn't concentrate on a basic computer task well enough to recognize simple images that flashed quickly across the monitor.

The problem, judging by many reports on the research, is the work showed that women could be blinded by jealousy, but not necessarily men.

It was juicy fodder for the Internet, leading one writer to claim the conclusions proved that "scientists hate women." Other comments, which Laurenceau labeled "venomous," cast doubt upon the scientists' credentials, intelligence, and intentions.

"We're definitely not women haters," Laurenceau said in a telephone interview. "I'm married to one, and I have a daughter."

The study targeted women, Most said, because the sample needed to be homogeneous, and men and women apparently have different attitudes about jealousy. Previous studies have also focused on women, so this adds to that data, and the researchers are considering doing other experiments targeting men, although it's not clear if that is going to happen.

In the meantime, the study does show just how vulnerable our perception can be to emotions. The women who participated in the study really were "blinded" by jealousy, Most said, but not in a literal sense.