Why do some of us cheat in our relationships and have romantic affairs? Are there factors that may predict infidelity in men and women? What does the science say?
For a better understanding of infidelity (and how to spot a potential cheater), I reached out to Dr. Robin Milhausen, a professor and sexuality researcher at the University of Guelph in Canada, and neuroscientist Dr. Giovanni Frazzetto, who authored the book "Joy, Guilt, Anger, Love: What Neuroscience Can--and Can't--Tell Us About How We Feel."
They told me six freaky facts that may change the way you look at infidelity. Click on the video above and/or read the full transcript below. Plus, leave your thoughts in the comments below. Talk nerdy to me!
JACQUELINE HOWARD: Hey everyone. Jacqueline Howard here. Think of the person you love. Now think of that person with someone else. No way, right? Cheating is a lot more common than you think. About half of marriages may be affected by infidelity. Sure, you may think something’s up if your partner’s habits change, they’re coming home late from work, or constantly checking their phone. But wouldn’t it be so much easier if you could spot a cheater just from a first impression? Are there scientific warning signs? They’re strange, but they’re there. For the nitty gritty, I called sexuality researcher Dr. Robin Milhausen and neuroscientist Dr. Giovanni Frazzetto. Here’s a rundown of some scientific warning signs that might mean your partner is statistically more likely to cheat.
WARNING SIGN #1: HE SOUNDS LIKE BARRY WHITE.
DR. ROBIN MILHAUSEN: Women prefer men with a lower-pitched voice but they’re also more likely to consider them to be at risk for being unfaithful. So women are particularly likely to be interested in men with lower-pitched voices, or deeper voices, for casual relationships versus long-term relationships.
JH: Did you catch that? In heterosexual relationships, women prefer men with deeper voices for the short term. Because a deep voice is an indicator that a man has lots of testosterone, and research has linked high levels of testosterone with likeliness to cheat.
WARNING SIGN #2: SHE HAS A KILLER CAREER.
JH: Whether your partner is a man or a woman, we all would love it if they had an impressive job, Harvard degree, made more than six figures. But those things have been linked with a higher risk of infidelity. On the flip side, one study found that in heterosexual relationships, the more financially dependent the man is on his female partner, the more likely he is to cheat. For women, the more dependent they are, the less likely.
WARNING SIGN #3: HE HAS ERECTION PROBLEMS.
JH: Curious. I know. But one study found it’s a worrisome sign, because he actually might go looking for a risky affair just to boost his arousal. After all, a new partner wouldn’t know about his condition, and so he'd feel less insecure.
RM: If you're worried to lose your erection at any point you might need to put yourself into really high arousing situations that might be really risky, really exciting, and those situations might be with a novel or forbidden partner.
WARNING SIGN #4: RELIGION IS OUT OF THE PICTURE.
JH: Most religious faiths encourage sticking by your partner, and it turns out, many folks are practicing what they preach. People who are more religious or spiritual are less likely to cheat. People who have no religious affiliation are more likely.
WARNING SIGN #5: SHE'S REALLY MOODY.
JH: It's true. Researchers say, in both men and women, personality can predict infidelity. But what exactly should we be looking out for?
RM: Those typically tend to be negative types of personality traits. Neuroticism, psychoticism, moodiness, anxiety, these kinds of personality factors do tend to be associated with infidelity.
WARNING SIGN #6: HIS PARENTS BROKE UP.
JH: You may think after experiencing divorce as a kid, you never want to go through that again. But for all of us, research suggests that kids of divorced parents are more likely to end their own marriages. Does that mean divorce is genetic? No. But tendency to cheat just may be linked to our genes. Maybe.
DR. GIOVANNI FRAZZETTO: You cannot say that a gene makes you infidel or makes you more likely to cheat on your partner, but there are some clues that come from the gene variant of a receptor for the neurotransmitter dopamine.
JH: Dopamine is the feel-good neurotransmitter that makes us euphoric. One study found that people who carry a particular version of a dopamine receptor gene may be more likely to sleep around. So does that mean we should all go in for a gene test? Maybe not. But what about a more high-tech way to screen for a cheater? Like a brain scan?
GF: A brain scan cannot reveal whether you’re going to cheat on your partner.
JH: Got it. Now let’s get to the million-dollar question. Why is it so difficult for some of us just to be faithful? Are humans really monogamous?
RM: Since the beginning of time, people have been having extradyadic sexual relationships, even back to caveman times. But also at the same time, you’ve seen evidence of pair bonds where parents get together and raise families in that pair bond for decades on end as well. So I think that answer is it depends. It depends on all those other factors we talked about, your personality, demographic characteristics, and the opportunities you have.
JH: What are your thoughts on infidelity -- and have you been inclined to cheat in the past or have you been cheated on? Let me know in the comments. Don't be shy. Talk nerdy to me!
See all Talk Nerdy to Me posts.
(Infographic by Alissa Scheller for the Huffington Post)