Science Made Me Cheat


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To say that science might influence a person's ability to cheat seems a little far fetched, but my research has shown that maybe it's not so crazy. Looking for topics about blogs, I stumbled across this article about findings from Dr. Helen Fisher, chief scientific adviser of Chemistry.com about the tendencies of cheating. Dr. Fisher debunked many rumors and provided new insights to adultery. For starters, Dr. Fisher says that the common thought that men cheat more than women is in fact false. In the past, it was true that men cheated more often than women, but now the stats have evened out. Why is that? According to Dr. Fisher, in today's society, women now provide for themselves just as much as men, something that wasn't so about forty years. While women used to rely on men for income and security, modern civilization is full of women who are capable of providing for themselves without the help of a man, and thus can run the risk of cheating and getting caught. Ludicrous thinking? Perhaps. But too far fetched? Maybe not.

However, Fisher went on to explain that the goal of cheating for men and women is not the same. In a study the doctor conducted, she found that 54% of men that cheated were perfectly content with their wives, but only 36% of women that cheated shared the same satisfaction. The conclusion? Men cheat simply to enjoy getting the same sexual high that their wife provides for them, but with someone else. For women, cheating is more about dissatisfaction, whether sexual or marital. It now begs the question of why cheating men are judged more harshly than cheating women - a man looking for sexual adventures surely shouldn't be judged more than a woman who avoids confronting her spouse by seeing men on the side. Why does society frown upon the cheating man more than the cheating woman?

Another interesting finding that Fisher details is the division of sex and love. Brain architecture, she says, may be able to separate feelings of sex and love which would make it easier for a person to have sex with someone else, but ignore feelings of love. Fisher says this is more obvious in men because testosterone shapes a brain with high compartmentalization. I am not sure I particularly agree with this thinking. I think it is possible for the human brain to separate sex and love, and there are more than a handful of cases to prove this, but the idea that testosterone influences brain compartmentalization is a little far-fetched. 

Another article takes a slightly scientific stance but still points out some interesting ideas. It detailed a discussion between Pastor Ed Young (who shockingly believed cheating was acceptable), Noel Biderman (the head of a social-networking site for people looking to cheat) and David Barash and Judith Lipton (co-authors of a book about infidelity). Biderman believed that adultery not only left marriage unharmed, but rather improved it. Barash and Lipton pointed back to ideas in their book which suggested that it is completely acceptable for humans to cheat because many species of animals have multiple partners, and since we come from the same basic genetic background as animals, it should be okay for humans to cheat. It can be argued from the other side that animals don't take the oath that humans do to "love one another in sickness and in health," and that cheating is morally corrupt. 

The final article I stumbled upon was, by far, the craziest idea I had heard in all my research. Scientists, according to this writer, had discovered a cheating gene. Say what?! The evidence is certainly interesting. Scientists believe genes associated with thrill-seeking endeavors may make a person more likely to cheat. Their findings are certainly curious. A study of 181 young volunteers analyzed a genetic variation of the DRD4 gene called 7R+. 50% of people with 7R+ were unfaithful, while only 22% of people without 7R+ were also cheaters. 23% of the people in this study were women with 7R+ and 26% were males with the variation. That's almost half of the 181 people involved. From this, scientists concluded that individuals with the 7R+ variation were more likely to cheat than those without. Since this is the first I had heard of these findings, I don't know if I'm inclined to believe these findings.

Regardless, it was clear that scientists are always looking for explanations to cheating. While some people have their reasons for having a one-night stand or "something on the side," there are just as many cheaters who don't have a reason for their infidelity. Personally, I think a certain kind of person cheats. Personality certainly plays a role in cheating, as does past experience. If a parent, family member or loved one has cheated, I think it's certainly possible for a person to copy that behavior, more so than someone who has never personally seen the effects of adultery. I will never cheat. But who's to say why?

4 Comments

Your blog is very well written and you certainly found several credible sources and examples, but having been cheated on before I find many of the conclusions scientists seem to try to be making absolute crap. I think that finding an excuse for cheating seems very cowardly. Half the people that I know that have cheated or have been cheated on did it for the soul purpose of hurting the other person. In a blind fit of anger they cheat on their significant other in front of them to get a reaction out of them. If not for this I feel that many times that people are cheated on their significant other is highly intoxicated, severely changing their mental abilities. Personally I think its childish to blame cheating on drinking, but it is true that sometimes people become so overcome by alcohol or drugs they really have no idea what they're doing. While many of these sources seemed to be well laid out I find it hard to believe people are actually trying to justify their actions through scientific reasoning.

Katie,

I agree with you, completely. I don't think it's acceptable to justify cheating, but I think the studies here aren't so much justifying that it is okay to cheat, but rather giving some reasons behind why people do it. None of the articles I read blatantly said "This scientific research makes it okay for cheating now." I would never agree with that. I think alcohol and drugs certainly play a role in adultery, at least at our age, but in relationships between older, consenting adults, I don't think that is the case. An older married couple isn't going to cheat on each other in front of each other, but instead behind each other's backs. They don't need to be intoxicated to get involved with what they are doing, but they certainly have their reasons, as my findings show. I won't say that adults don't cheat on each other because they want to hurt each other because I certainly think that is the case. I read a book this summer called Gone Girl in which the main married couple cheat on each other with different partners. It is interesting because they do it specifically to disrespect each other's feelings. I just think the topic in general is interesting, but I just wanted to clarify that I did not think these scientific findings were trying to defend cheating.

I have heard that humans are not genetically monogamous, however culturally we are. We have it engrained in our minds that this behavior is wrong which is exactly the way I feel. The idea of dishonest behavior in a relationship makes me sick to my stomach. It has separated my family and ended many other relationships of my friends and relatives. I see it as not scientifically unethical but culturally a deviant behavior that is becoming all too common among couples.

I think people cheat not with the sole purpose of hurting their significant other, but because they might stumble across another person that they get close to and end up wanting to get a little too close. Chemistry can't be forced, but neither can ignoring chemistry. I'm definitely not defending cheating because humans have this lovely thing called willpower, but this is the most understandable reason for cheating I've heard. Humans are rarely malicious for the sake of hurting others, rather, they want to feel better about themselves. They might want to reflect their own dissatisfaction with themselves on a different face who might better "understand."

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