Who Is Likely to Cheat
While the desire to cheat is a fundamental and unconscious part of our human nature, not everyone will be unfaithful.
Like most of our behaviors, infidelity is not intentional, but for the most part is situationally driven.
When placed in the right situation (or wrong situation, in this case), our emotions can prompt us to act in ways which are counter to our beliefs. Please note that some of the factors listed below are drawn from Buss and Shackelford’s work on infidelity (also see stats about infidelity).
What factors influence an individual’s willingness to cheat?
All things being equal, an individual’s attractiveness influences how likely he or she is to cheat. Attraction comes in many different forms—it is influenced by one’s physical appearance, one’s social skills, and one’s tangible resources (such as money). The more one is in demand, the more likely one is to cheat. People who have higher incomes, more education, and successful careers are more likely to cheat than people who are less successful. Physical attractiveness also plays an important role (see gut reaction).
Again, all things being equal, the more individual free time people have, the more likely they are to cheat. Couples who have separate social lives, friends, careers, travel plans, and so on are much more likely to cheat than couples who spend most of their time together. The more opportunity people have to cheat, the greater the odds that cheating will occur.
People who like to take risks or have a sense of adventure are more likely to cheat than people who are more fearful or timid by nature. There is most likely a genetic component involved in risk-taking behavior—some people may be predisposed to taking risks.
Individual personality traits also play a role in who is likely to commit infidelity. People who have psychopathic or Machiavellian personality traits are much more likely to cheat (see personality traits and infidelity).
People in a position of power are more likely to cheat. Power increases one’s confidence, leading powerful individuals to act in more assertive and outgoing ways. Powerful people are more likely to make direct eye contact, strike a confident pose, and approach potential lovers. Power influences the likelihood of cheating for both men and women (see powerful cheaters and politicians and infidelity).
Sexual desire varies from person to person. Some people have a very high sex drive while other people are much less concerned or interested in sex. People with a high sex drive are more likely to cheat. Again, sexual desire appears to be influenced by genetic factors. Some people are inherently more easily aroused and driven by their desire for sex than other people (see webMD). People who have multiple affairs are often addicted to the novelty and excitement which infidelity can provide (also see coolidge effect). Men, more so than women, also tend to have a higher sex drive and are more likely to cheat (see why men cheat and why women cheat).
Attitude Toward Love and Romance
Attachment and Love Styles
Some people view love and romance as a sacred bond between two individuals. Other people see love as a game, where the goal is to manipulate another individual and gain emotional power over a partner (see ludus and lovefraud). People who view love as a game are much more likely to have multiple love interests; cheating is just another way to gain control over one’s spouse. Also, people with a dismissive style of attachment are more likely to cheat (see attachment styles, born to stray, and genetic basis for infidelity).
As problems emerge in a relationship, people are more likely to cheat. Infidelity is more common in relationships where people feel misunderstood, underappreciated, and where fighting and bickering is common (see evaluate your relationship).
Sense of Entitlement
Some people, due to their position in society, their beliefs about gender roles, or their cultural upbringing, believe that it is their right to cheat on their partner. In other words, some people believe that cheating is a privilege to which they are entitled. Such individuals, known as philanderers, often engage in infidelity with little guilt or remorse.
Additionally, our cheater risk assessment (an infidelity test) is an interactive quiz designed to let you compare your romantic partner against our profile of people who cheat.
And the blog Truth, Lies and Romance provides a description of the different types of affairs that people typically have.