The effect of economic scarcity on women’s direct aggression toward ovulating women
Hurst, Ashalee C.
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When people feel like their relationship may be threatened by a rival, they engage in competition with the rival (Buss,1988). Previous work has found that women are more jealous of and guard their partners more from women who are in the fertile phase of their ovulatory cycle than from women who are not in the fertile phase of their ovulatory cycle (Hurst, Alquist, & Puts, 2017; Krems et al., 2016). If a woman’s male partner had sex with a rival woman when the rival was in the fertile phase of her ovulatory cycle, the rival could become pregnant. Even if the primary relationship remained intact after the affair, the rival woman would likely receive resources from the male partner to help support their child. If resources play a role in this ovulatory effect, resource scarcity should increase the likelihood that participants will engage in direct aggression toward an ovulating rival. Research on women’s intrasexual competition has found that women are more likely to engage in subtle and indirect forms of aggression (e.g., socially excluding the rival woman) than direct aggression (e.g., yelling at, or punching the rival; Vaillancourt & Sharma, 2011). However, field and experimental research has found that women are more likely to engage in direct intrasexual aggression when resources are scarce than when resources are not scarce (Campbell, 1998; Griskevicius, 2009). In the current study, women in heterosexual relationships were primed to think about scarce resources or they were assigned to a control condition. Next, participants imagined that a female rival flirted with their romantic partner. The rival was pictured when she was ovulating or when she was not ovulating. Finally, participants reported their likelihood of engaging in a variety aggressive behaviors. I predicted that the scarcity prime would moderate the effect of ovulation on aggression. Specifically, I hypothesized that participants’ direct aggression would be highest when participants were primed with economic scarcity and they imagined their partner with an ovulating rival.