Cheaters were cast into the starlight in 2015 when a massive data leak on adulterous website Ashley Madison revealed the names and details of thousands of lecherous cheaters. Many were stay-at-home dads or men who earned significantly more than their female partners, both groups who science has shown cheat in higher proportions.
Cheating is one of the most common plot lines for movies and novels across the world. From the woman who is unsatisfied in her emotionally distant husband to the man who is unhappy that he’s not getting enough action for his taste, the stories and archetypes are endless. In this list, we dig into the science of cheating and reveal what causes people to cheat, when people are more likely to cheat, and who is more likely to cheat. (The results will surprise you.)
Some of the research reveals that we’re easily driven by our biological impulses, just like our mammalian brethren. Other parts of the research reveal our complicated forms of cheating, made easier in the modern age with the rise of social media and technology. Check out these facts about cheaters, including the scientific basis for cheating, in this list of 25 Scientific Facts About Cheating & Why People Cheat.
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Differences in the "happy hormone" affect our likelihood to cheat
The neurotransmitter dopamine floods into our system after we do pleasurable activities such as eating food or having sex. Two different types of dopamine exist and our bodies genetically produce one or the other. Scientists have found that people with the long version cheat on their partners at a much higher rate – 50% vs 22% – than those with the short version. People with the long version are also more likely to take risks and face problems with addiction.
Most mammals are polygamous
Only 3% of mammals are monogamous – and humans are included in that group, most of the time. What’s strange is that most other species of primates, our genetic relatives, don’t stay with the same partner for life as we do.
Social media has led to more cheating
The rise of social media has paralleled a rise in infidelity. Why? With sites like Facebook and Instagram, people can re-connect with old lovers, increasing the amount of affairs and breakups.
Larger testicles = more cheating?
Species in which males have large testicles are more likely to have promiscuous females. While promiscuity doesn’t necessarily involve cheating (especially since most of these species are non-monogamous), it’s interesting to see the correlation. Scientists believe the males developed larger testicles to store more sperm and be able to mate more frequently with the females to increase their chances of passing on their biological material.
How monogamy developed
Recent studies have concluded that monogamy evolved in primates due to infanticide where foreign males would kill their rivals’ infants and take over their females. Nowadays, since we’ve progressed as a species and infanticide is rather rare, we may be more likely to stray from our pairs.