Is the ‘Infidelity Epidemic’ Hard-Wired in Our Genes?

March 21, 2008 03:40 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Spitzer and Paterson’s confessions prompted a rush of articles about unfaithfulness and modern life. Science has chewed over the issue for years.

30-Second Summary

This year has seen USA Today and Britain’s Daily Telegraph ask whether their nations are in the throes of, as the latter put it, an “infidelity epidemic.”

However, according to evolutionary psychologist David Barash infidelity is as old as the hills. “Before the homogenization of cultures that resulted from Western colonialism,” he wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “more than 85 percent of human societies unabashedly favored polygamy.”

In his estimation, there is no epidemic. Modern Westerners, such as Gov. David Paterson, are now simply more willing to discuss their indiscretions.
Evolutionary psychology also predicts that men will be more promiscuous than women. A man can father, theoretically, hundreds of children, whereas the most fertile woman could feasibly have perhaps 20 children in her life. So, men are driven by their genes to reproduce indiscriminately.

Evidence supporting that theory was presented in a 2003 survey conducted among more than 16,000 people across several countries, as reported in the Washington Times.

More than a quarter of heterosexual male respondents said they wanted more than one partner in the next month, compared to just 4.4 percent of women.

Oho State University psychologist Terri Fischer told the Washington Times that teaching those results had its dangers: “I bet a lot of males might leave class and talk to their girlfriends and say, 'You know what I learned in class? It's natural I don't want to commit to you and that I feel attracted to other women—it's because I am a man.’”

But evolutionary psychologists agree that being predisposed to behave in a certain way doesn’t excuse that behavior or make it inevitable.

More important than mankind’s genetic predispositions may be our changing society. The Daily Telegraph writes that, in a digital age, "having an affair has never been easier."

Headline Link: ‘Desperately Seeking Someone’

Analysis: Researching Infidelity

Background : Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson

Related Topic: Selfish genes and unselfish behavior


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