Original article:

Was that cheating? Perceptions vary by sex, attachment anxiety, and behavior

Evolutionary Psychology 11(1): 159-171 Daniel J. Kruger, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA, kruger@umich.eduMaryanne L. Fisher, Department of Psychology, Saint Mary's University, Halifax, CanadaRobin S. Edelstein, Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USAWilliam J. Chopik, Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USACarey J. Fitzgerald, Department of Psychology, Oakland University, Rochester, USASarah L. Stout, Department of Psychology, Dominican College, Orangeburg, USA


We generated an inventory of 27 interpersonal behaviors and examined the extent to which participants judged each behavior as cheating on a long-term partner. 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 results using the framework of attachment theory and sex-specific mating strategies.


attachment, cheating, infidelity, romantic relationships, sex differences

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Evolutionary Psychology - An open access peer-reviewed journal - ISSN 1474-7049 © Ian Pitchford and Robert M. Young; individual articles © the author(s)

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