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We predicted variation in these judgments based on participant sex and attachment insecurity. Ratings for items ranged considerably; participants rated sexual behaviors as most indicative of cheating, then erotic behaviors, followed by behaviors consistent with a romantic relationship, and then behaviors related to financial support. Women rated ten items higher than did men, and men's ratings were higher on a minor financial support item. Higher attachment anxiety was associated with higher ratings for 18 of 27 behaviors; higher attachment avoidance was associated with lower scores on five items and higher scores on one item.
Principle Axis Factoring identified three dimensions; sexual interaction, behaviors indicating close relationships, and casual social interaction. We discuss these using the framework of attachment theory and sex-specific mating strategies. We examined the extent to which individuals would identify a range of behaviors as constituting cheating on a long-term partner and factors influencing these judgments.
Cheating in romantic relationships is a popular topic across the psychological literature, especially so in evolutionary psychology. The most prevalent type of study using the framework of evolutionary psychology follows the paradigm used by Buss, Larsen, Westen, and Semmelrothwhere individuals are asked whether they would be more distressed upset, jealous, etc.
Sexual intercourse with someone other than a long-term partner in the context of a nominally monogamous relationship may be readily identified as cheating. However, there is far less agreement for ambiguous behaviors that could be considered either as s of mere friendship or as aling deeper sexual or romantic interest Feldman and Cauffman, ; Mattingly, Clark, Weidler, and Bequette, ; Weis and Felton, ; Yarab, Sensibaugh, and Allgeier, There is a continuum of extra-pair sexual behavior, ranging from flirting to long-term sexual relationships Buunk, There are also ranges of behaviors related to emotional connections and material support.
Buunk noted that these frequencies may be higher because of the relatively permissive social norms in the Netherlands, and the inclusion of university students and respondents from the sexually liberal Dutch Federation for Sexual Reform. Buunk sampled these groups to increase the variance in outcome measures. Mattingly, Wilson, Clark, Bequette, and Weidler demonstrated the influence of individual differences on considering ambiguous behaviors as cheating. They found that lower perceived availability of alternative mates is associated with a greater propensity to identify ambiguous behaviors as cheating Mattingly et al.
Mattingly et al. However, regardless of their religiosity or relationship satisfaction, women are more likely than men to consider behaviors aimed at actively deceiving one's partner, such as lying or withholding information, as cheating Mattingly et al. Attachment style is another individual difference related to mating strategies and potentially related to perceptions of cheating behavior. Bowlby observed that early and impulsive displays of sexual and aggressive behavior were most prevalent in those who had experienced disturbed family relations.
He proposed that there is an evolved attachment system that functions to both protect dependent children from danger and motivate caregiving adults to care for children. Under normal conditions where caregivers provide a safe and emotionally warm environment, children would develop emotional bonds with their caregivers and stay physically close to them-they become securely attached.
When caregivers do not provide a safe and emotionally warm environment, children can become insecurely attached. Attachment style may guide sexual strategies see Del Giudice, Belsky, Steinberg, and Draper view the attachment process as an evolved psychological mechanism to evaluate social conditions and choose a contextually effective sexual strategy. Individual differences in attachment orientation vary on two dimensions: anxiety and avoidance Fraley and Waller, High scores on attachment-related anxiety i. In contrast, individuals scoring high on attachment avoidance are characterized by chronic attempts to deactivate or inhibit attachment-system activation Edelstein and Shaver, ; Fraley, Davis, and Shaver, They minimize expressions of distress Fraley and Shaver,dislike physical and emotional intimacy Brennan, Clark, and Shaver,and grieve less after a breakup than non-avoidant adults Fraley et al.
The hyperactivating and deactivating strategies, respectively associated with attachment anxiety and avoidance, influence the interpretation of relationship threats. For instance, anxious individuals tend to overestimate relationship threats and underestimate their partner's commitment to the existing relationship Collins, In ambiguous situations, anxious individuals are more likely to perceive partners as insensitive and to suspect relationship problems that may or may not exist. Perhaps because of these factors, individuals high in attachment anxiety tend to experience more jealousy than those who are less anxious Buunk, ; Guerrero, ; Radecki-Bush, Farrell, and Bush, ; Sharpsteen and Kirkpatrick, In contrast to the proximity-seeking behaviors associated with high attachment anxiety, avoidant individuals tend to create psychological distance from relationship partners Edelstein and Shaver, Although prior research indicates that individual differences in attachment are associated with people's perceptions of relationship threats and their experiences of jealousy, it is unknown if one's attachment style influences judgments of whether certain behaviors constitute cheating in romantic relationships.
Those with greater sensitivity to relationship threats may be more likely to identify ambiguous behaviors as cheating. Those higher in attachment avoidance may be less sensitive to identifying behaviors as cheating.
Sex differences in responses to infidelity are well documented e. The vast majority of research indicates that men are more distressed when considering the possibility of their partners' sexual infidelity e. Because men have paternal uncertainty, women's sexual infidelity may result in cuckoldry, in which case a man expends resources on another man's offspring Buss, ; Shackelford and Buss, Although men are generally more likely to commit adultery than women Johnson, ; Kinsey, Pomeroy, Martin, and Gebhard, ; but also see Maykovich, ; Tarvis, and Sadd,men are more to initiate divorce proceedings on grounds of infidelity likely than women Buckle, Gallup, and Rodd, On the other hand, women generally perceive emotional infidelity as a greater threat than sexual infidelity because it could lead to her mate deserting her for another woman.
This desertion presumably in the loss of any protection and resources for her and her children that her mate was providing Buss, ; Shackelford and Buss, This sex difference in distress from sexual and emotional infidelity has been found using self-report and physiological measures Buss et al. It has also been replicated cross-culturally Buss et al.
We anticipate that the sex difference in the provocation of jealousy by sexual and emotional domains relate to sex differences in the identification of behaviors in these domains as cheating. Based on prior research indicating that those high in attachment anxiety are hypervigilant to relationship threats, we expected that attachment anxiety would directly predict ratings of cheating. We expected that attachment anxiety would have a stronger relationship to the identification of ambiguous behaviors as cheating than attachment avoidance, and that attachment avoidance may actually be inversely associated with the identification of behaviors as cheating.
In addition, due to sex differences in concerns for mate desertion versus cuckoldry, we predicted women would rate behaviors indicating emotional bonding, als of relationship status, and resource investment as more indicative of cheating, whereas men would rate sexual behaviors higher. We predicted that explicitly sexual physical interactions would be considered most indicative of cheating, followed by erotic behaviors that do not involve direct physical contact, followed by comparison behaviors, such as brief hugging, which is common amongst non-romantic friends.
We predicted that items related to extensive socialization e. Behaviors that al or imply an emotional bond between the individuals, as well as financial support, may arouse a moderate degree of cheating detection. We predicted that cheating perceptions would be influenced by qualitatively similar behaviors with different possible al intensities.
For example, kissing someone on the lips may be perceived as a stronger al of infidelity than kissing someone on the cheek. Calling someone else when upset about something that happened at work may be seen as a reasonable casual interaction, but calling someone else when upset about something that happened with a relationship partner may be perceived as a betrayal, especially when the person called is the same sex as the partner. There was no ificant sex difference in age. We attempted to create a list of behaviors that would span several different dimensions that exist within casual, romantic, and sexual relationships see Table 1.
We generated 27 items including sexual behaviors e. Higher ratings indicate greater perceptions of the behavior as cheating. The items were presented in a randomized order across participants. Table 1. Scores on cheating index and associations with attachment dimensions. We assessed attachment using the first five items from each of the attachment avoidance and attachment anxiety dimensions of the Experiences in Close Relationships ECR inventory Brennan, Clark, and Shaver, We used multiple linear regressions, force entering anxiety, avoidance, and participant sex to obtain beta values in predicting cheating ratings for every item.
We ranked behaviors according to their mean cheating inventory scores see Table 1. As a last step, we conducted Principle Axis Factoring with Oblimin rotation and Kaiser Normalization to examine the correspondence between items and our hypothesized behavioral and replicated the regression procedure see Table 2. Table 2. Scores for cheating dimensions and associations with attachment.
Erotic behaviors were also highly rated, followed by behaviors implying relationship status and financial support. Women's ratings were ificantly higher than men's ratings on ten items for erotic behaviors, emotional bonding, behaviors implying relationship status, and financial support. Those scoring higher on attachment anxiety rated 18 of 27 items ificantly higher, whereas those scoring higher on attachment avoidance rated five items lower and one item with a low mean rating higher on cheating.
As predicted, qualitatively similar behaviors with higher levels of intensity were perceived as stronger indications of cheating. Sexual and erotic interactions were rated highly indicative of cheating overall, casual social interactions were rated as not indicative of cheating overall, and behaviors indicating close relationships were rated as moderately indicative of cheating See Table 2. Participants scoring higher on attachment anxiety rated close relationship behaviors and casual social interactions as more indicative of cheating, and showed weaker non-ificant trends for rating the other areas higher.
Those scoring higher on attachment avoidance rated sexual and erotic interactions lower in cheating, and showed a weak non-ificant trend to rate casual social interactions as more indicative of cheating. Women rated items across all dimensions higher on cheating; this relationship was strongest for sexual and erotic interactions. We demonstrated individual differences in beliefs of the extent to which behaviors were perceived as cheating in romantic relationships based on sex, attachment anxiety, and attachment avoidance.
Those higher in attachment anxiety were more likely to perceive many behaviors as cheating, whereas attachment avoidance was less consistently associated with reductions in the ratings of behaviors as cheating. Women gave several behaviors higher cheating scores than men, including sexual and erotic behaviors—contrary to expectations. Overall, sexual behaviors such as penile-vaginal intercourse and oral sex were rated as most indicative of cheating.
Erotic behaviors were also rated as highly indicative of cheating, followed by behaviors implying relationship status and financial support. The associations documented in this study were generally not very strong, though consistent with the mean effect size for published social psychological research Richard, Bond, and Stokes-Zoota, and work examining the relationships between attachment insecurity and socio-sexuality e.
Our relatively large sample size enabled many of the weaker trends to reach statistical ificance. There are likely many factors influencing cheating perceptions, such as religiosity, perceived availability of alternative mates Mattingly et al. It is worth noting the similar functions that the attachment system and the process of evaluating relationship threats serve.
According to Sharpsteen and Kirkpatrickboth can be thought of as processes aimed at maintaining relationships, are triggered by actual or potential separation from a loved one, involve similar emotional experiences anger, anxiety, fear, and sadnessand are regulated by mental models of the self and of relationships. Attachment anxiety, related to the fear of losing one's partner, appears to confer somewhat greater sensitivity in reaching judgments that a person's fidelity is in question. Attachment avoidance appears related to lower levels of commitment and exclusivity in relationships Brennan and Shaver, ; Schachner and Shaver, Those with higher attachment avoidance discounted the cheating relevance of several behaviors.
Those higher in avoidance may be more likely to perform a range of these behaviors with third parties while in romantic relationships. However, our de did not include self-reports of actual behaviors, so we will incorporate this consideration into future studies. Qualitatively similar behaviors with higher levels of intensity were perceived as stronger indications of cheating. These contrasts may not be surprising, yet they support the notion that there is a gradient of interpretations for the identification of potential cheating behaviors.
Some behaviors are clearly identified as cheating, some behaviors are clearly not identified as cheating, and some are ambiguous. Yet, even some ambiguous behaviors are considered more indicative of cheating than others. Inconsistent with our prediction, men did not rate the sexual and erotic items as more indicative of cheating than women. This lack of effect also contrasts with the existing literature on sex differences in the averseness of infidelity by domain. There may be a distinction between the identification of a behavior as cheating and the averseness of a particular behavior, as Sagarin et al.
Responses could be complicated by differences in how participants interpreted the behaviors. We framed the behaviors as relating to anonymous, unspecified individuals. Participants who are imagining their own behaviors and considering whether they could be accused of cheating may show a pattern opposite from same sex participant who imagines the same behaviors conducted by their partners. It is also possible that our are limited by a ceiling effect, as both men and women rated sexual and erotic behaviors as highly indicative of cheating.Roscoe NY cheating wives
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