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Entries in cheating/infidelity (45)


The Psychology of Attractiveness Podcast - Preventing Cheating with "Coalitional Mate Retention"

With a little help from my friends: Robert Burriss discusses two new experiments that examine how people use coalitional mate retention tactics to prevent their partners from cheating. Your friends can help to keep your partner faithful.

Check out the newest episode of The Psychology of Attractiveness podcast here.


Everybody Else is Cheating, Right? Not Necessarily

Most people believe that infidelity is a very bad thing,1 yet a majority of people admit they have cheated on a romantic partner. In fact, studies have shown that about 75 percent of men and 68 percent of women have cheated at some point in a relationship.2,3

There are many reasons why people are unfaithful to their partners, but one possibility is that cheating may seem like a more acceptable behavior for us to engage in if we think it’s commonplace and widely accepted. If we think that our own cheating is less frequent or severe than the norm, we’ll be more likely to let ourselves slide and succumb to temptation. “Everyone else is doing it, so if I have one little dalliance that wouldn’t be so bad."

We often compare ourselves to others and compare ourselves to what we believe is typical behavior. According to social comparison theory, if we want to know where we stand on a particular behavior, we compare ourselves to our peers.4 So if you want to know if your faithfulness to your partner is typical, you can compare yourself to others.

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Can You Spot The Cheater? It Should Only Take You a Few Minutes

The next time you see a couple together, take a few minutes to observe how the partners interact with each other. Based on what you see, consider what you might be able to determine about their relationship. It seems reasonable that you could tell whether they enjoy spending time together or if they’re fighting. But based on your brief observation, could you pick out a cheater? It may sound implausible that anyone could accurately and quickly determine whether someone is cheating on a partner based on a quick observation like this. But researchers from Brigham Young University and Florida State University thought it may be easier than we might think and conducted a series of two studies to get some answers.

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Two Key Ways That Stress Undermines Your Relationship

You experience stress nearly every day of your life. Stress can come from your job, your coworkers, fellow commuters, and generally from having too much to do without enough time to do it. And anyone in a relationship knows how easy it for that “external” stress to find its way into their romantic relationship.

Researchers followed 80 couples’ over 4 years and found that when couple members reported more stress outside of their relationship, they also reported feeling less comfortable depending on their partners and felt less close and more unsure about their relationship compared to couple members who were less stressed.1 This type of stress “spillover” may also occur on a daily basis. In a study of 165 newly married couples, individuals who reported more daily stress also reported more negative relationship behaviors such as criticizing their partners.2 These results indicate that stress from outside a relationship can spillover and cause more negative relationship behaviors. But, it’s also possible that those more prone to stress are also more prone to having poor relationships. An experiment would be needed to determine if stress directly affects relationships. 

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Keeping the Back Burner Warm with Technology

With the pervasiveness of social media and mobile devices comes the potential to communicate with hundreds or thousands of people with just a few taps or clicks. Of course, we are connected to lots of different types of people, including family, friends, coworkers, and random people you have a faint recollection of from high school who friended you on Facebook. We also have very different reasons for communicating with particular people in our social circles. New research1 suggests that one motivation for communicating on Facebook (and other social media sites) is to keep some of our connections on the “back burner” as potential future romantic partners. 

If you’re not currently in a romantic relationship, it makes sense that you may think of some people in your social network as romantic possibilities. However, do people who are currently in exclusive romantic relationships also keep potential mates on the back burner?

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The Grass Is Greener on the Internet: Pornography, Alternatives, and Infidelity

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for that last 20 years, you likely know that the internet is full of pornography. But does exposure to porn hurt your relationships? Although there are conflicting results and plenty of questionable science on this topic (see here for an example), a new study suggests that watching porn may indeed impact certain aspects of relationship quality.1 Specifically, the researchers examined whether exposure to pornographic videos (i.e., the kind of thing you’re most likely to come across on the internet) increases people’s perception of relationship alternatives (read more about alternatives here), which negatively affects relationship quality. 

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The Biology of Cheating

In the movie Unfaithful, Diane Lane’s character seems to have it all: a nice house, kids, and a hunky husband to boot (played by Richard Gere). Yet, following a chance encounter with an attractive younger man, she finds herself being, well, unfaithful. Why would she risk all of the nice things in her life by cheating? There are several reasons why she would take such a risk. It could be something about her (her personality or self-esteem), something about her relationship (not satisfying or unfulfilling), or something about the situation (she just had the chance). However, infidelity or cheating could also result from, at least partially, underlying biological and hormonal influences.

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Sticking Together: Executive Control Cements Strong Relationships

We can learn a lot about what makes for happy, long-lasting romantic relationships by studying the various reasons why relationships fail. Though there isn’t a surefire algorithm that takes into account every possible factor that predicts how a relationship will evolve, research does give us insight into the characteristics and circumstances that help partners “stick” together – or not. One obvious reason why people break up is infidelity, or cheating. This “grim reaper” of relationships has attracted the attention of researchers who aim to identify tendencies that put partners at risk for getting into “sticky situations” outside of their current relationship. 

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Let Me Count The Ways: 5 Reasons Commitment is Good For Your Relationship

Commitment, the big “C-word” in relationships, is defined as feeling connected to your partner, wanting your relationship to succeed, and thinking about your long-term future together. Although there are downsides to commitment (see here for an example), commitment is associated with lots of good outcomes...

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I Cheated, Therefore I’m Not a Cheater

Most people generally believe that they are moral and good and that cheating on a partner is wrong. So how do cheaters live with themselves after their infidelity? Understanding how they reconcile their indiscretions with their beliefs about themselves can help us figure out why “good people cheat.” 

Dissonance theory1 predicts that when individuals’ thoughts and behaviors are inconsistent, something has to give. Have you ever wondered why anyone would be a smoker these days, given what we know about the link between “cancer sticks” and cancer? A smoker knows that smoking causes cancer, but might rationalize it by saying “I don’t smoke very much” or “My grandma smoked two packs a day and lived to be 90 years old!” By coming up with these rationalizations, people are able to preserve the impression that their behaviors and attitudes are consistent.

Similarly, cheaters might minimize the significance of their infidelity as a way to cope with knowing they did something wrong. The authors of a new study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships2 propose that cheaters feel bad about their indiscretions but try to feel better by reframing their past infidelities as uncharacteristic or an out-of-the-ordinary behavior.

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Is Having Sex with a Robot Considered Cheating?

Would you have sex with a robot? If your partner did, would you consider it to be cheating? According to this article on, 9% of people would shag a cyborg, and 42% say that robot sex counts as cheating.

Check our our articles on what counts as cheating here and here. Sadly, we don't have any articles about having sex with robots to share with you; the closest we could find is this post by SofR contributor Dr. Justin Lehmiller on his excellent site.



Is It Okay To Have A Crush On Someone Who Isn't Your Significant Other?

Is it okay for people to be attracted to others while in a committed relationship? Is it normal? Someone told me "if you're in a relationship and attracted to someone else, then there is something missing in your relationship and you shouldn't be committed in the first place." Is that true? I've always thought that attraction is normal and unavoidable, and crushes are harmless if not acted on. So, is it normal to have a crush on someone who isn't your significant other?

A: Your question raises several different issues worth considering, so let’s take them one at a time:

1) Is being “attracted to others while in a committed relationship… normal and unavoidable?”

Actually, yes, there is reason to think that being attracted to others is unavoidable. When we look at another person our brain very quickly processes the visual information our eyes see, and we nearly instantaneously make a judgment concerning the other person’s attractiveness.

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Top 10 Things You Should Avoid Doing If You Don't Want To Get Caught

Although I can’t claim to have personal experience avoiding “getting caught,” here’s some advice to those of you engaging in extramarital (or extra-relationship) affairs. (If you want to know if your partner is cheating, see here and here for what does and doesn’t count as cheating.) It doesn’t surprise me that people have affairs (my research suggests that 24-51% of men and women cheat on relationship partners1). It does surprise me that these affairs seem to reduce the cheaters’ number of functioning brain cells.

So, those of you out there cheating on your partners, here’s a list of the Top 10 Things You Should Avoid Doing If You Don't Want To Get Caught.  (I’ve based each on real cheating scenarios. Check your own knowledge of celebrity cheaters below.)

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How Can I Tell If My Partner Is Cheating?

In order to determine whether your partner is cheating, you first have to define what “cheating” means to you. On the surface, this doesn’t seem difficult—cheating is cheating, right? It’s one of those things that you just know it when you see it (or hear about it from a friend that saw your partner doing it). Well, let’s see just how absolute cheating is. Is having sexual intercourse with someone other than your partner cheating? YES! Maybe this game is easy. (Though it wouldn't be cheating if your partner said it was okay) What if your partner has conversations with someone at work, but doesn’t tell you? Hmm. What if you have a crush where you fantasize about someone else when you’re with your partner? Is flirting cheating? What about going to a strip club? What about Hooters? What about accepting a friend invitation from an ex-partner on Facebook? What about sexting?

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Opening Up: Challenging Myths about Consensual Non-Monogamy

What do sex columnist Dan Savage and politician Newt Gingrich have in common? Probably not a lot, but they have both been in the media recently in regards to open relationships.

In a recent article in the New York Times, sex columnist Dan Savage discussed the benefits of a monogamish relationship – one where partners are committed to each other but free to occasionally pursue sex partners outside of the primary relationship. He believes that opening up a relationship in this way can promote honest communication and prevent actual “infidelity.”

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Are “Open” Relationships The Hotbed For STDs That Everyone Assumes?

There seems to be a widely shared belief that anyone involved in an "open" relationship is infected with all sorts of STDs. The assumption seems to be that if you aren't monogamous, you're a promiscuous disease spreader, right? Not so fast. The reality is actually far more complex than this, and the risks of “open” and “closed” relationships may not be as different as they are assumed to be.

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Cheating is in the Eye of the Beholder: What Counts and Who Cheats?

Not that you need reminding, but nearly 15 years ago then-President Bill Clinton was immersed in a saucy sex scandal. The affair was the topic of many water cooler talks. People wondered how the American President, the leader of the free world, did not know whether he cheated or not? Well, it turns out that identifying what “counts” as cheating is more complicated than it seems.

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Dear Kristen Stewart...Why Did You Cheat?

Quick, in 10 seconds think of as many celebrities as you can who have allegedly been caught cheating. Go! Tiger Woods, Jude Law, Bill Clinton, Dave Letterman, Kobe Bryant, Eliot Spitzer, LeAnn Rimes, Hugh Grant, Bill Clinton some more, Jon Edwards, that guy Sandra Bullock was married to, Brett Favre, and now Kristen Stewart. Why is this so easy? Either you have an extraordinary knowledge of celebrities' love lives, or it really is a common phenomenon. So, why do they do it? Is it really Robert Pattinson's fault? Nope. They do it because they can.

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Dan Ariely on Cheating and Infidelity

We're big fans of Dan Ariely. His new book, The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone-- Especially Ourselves, focuses on many ways that people lie, cheat, or are otherwise dishonest in their lives. We are honored that he's offered to share an excerpt from his new book with Enjoy!

Of course, no book about cheating would be complete if it didn’t contain something about adultery and the kinds of complex and intricate subterfuges that extramarital relationships inspire. After all, in the popular vernacular, cheating is practically synonymous with infidelity.

In fact, infidelity can be considered one of the main sources of the world’s most dramatic entertainment. If modern-day adulterers such as Liz Taylor, Prince Charles, Tiger Woods, Eliot Spitzer, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and many others hadn’t cheated on their spouses, the tabloid magazine and various entertainment news outlets would probably go belly-up (so to speak).

In terms of the fudge factor theory, infidelity is most likely the prototypical illustration of all the characteristics of dishonesty that we have been talking about. To start with, it is the poster child (or at least one of them) of a behavior that does not stem from a cost-benefit analysis. I also suspect that the tendency toward infidelity depends to a great extent on being able to justify it to ourselves. Starting with one small action (maybe a kiss) is another force that can lead to deeper kinds of involvement over time. Being away from the usual day-to-day routine, for example on a tour or a set, where the social rules are not as clear, can further enhance the ability to self-justify infidelity. And creative people, such as actors, artists, and politicians—all known for a tendency to be unfaithful—are likely to be more adept at spinning stories about why it’s all right or even desirable for them to behave that way. And similar to other types of dishonesty, infidelity is influenced by the actions of those around us. Someone who has a lot of friends and family who have had affairs will likely be influenced by that exposure. With all of this complexity, nuance, and social importance, you might wonder why there isn’t a chapter in this book about infidelity and why this rather fascinating topic is relegated to one small section. The problem is data. I generally like to stick to conclusions I can draw from experiments and data. Conducting experiments on infidelity would be nearly impossible, and the data by their very nature are difficult to estimate. This means that for now we are left to speculate—and only speculate—about infidelity.

You can get The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone-- Especially Ourselves here, and check out Dr. Ariely's blog here. His other books include Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions and The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic.

See our articles about cheating and infidelity here.


Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality (Book Review)

All group-living nonhuman primates, such as chimpanzees and the lesser known bonobos, are polygamous. Perhaps not coincidentally, researchers have documented infidelity in every human culture. Yet, most evolutionary biologists agree that monogamy is natural to humans and that it has evolved to assure the survival of our species through guaranteed paternal child support. In other words, without monogamy there is no guarantee a guy would stick around to invest in his offspring. Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá, authors of Sex at Dawn,1 argue that a driving force behind this assured “male parental investment” is the certainty that it’s the particular male’s genes that are passed on to any offspring in which he invests. A monogamous bond insures a man will not accidentally support another man’s child, while it simultaneously assures the female that her male partner will not share resources with another woman’s offspring.

If monogamy is so natural, however, then why is it that cultures need to sanction monogamy?

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