Human Nature

, 19:347 | Cite as

Sex Differences in Detecting Sexual Infidelity

Results of a Maximum Likelihood Method for Analyzing the Sensitivity of Sex Differences to Underreporting
  • Paul W. AndrewsEmail author
  • Steven W. Gangestad
  • Geoffrey F. Miller
  • Martie G. Haselton
  • Randy Thornhill
  • Michael C. Neale


Despite the importance of extrapair copulation (EPC) in human evolution, almost nothing is known about the design features of EPC detection mechanisms. We tested for sex differences in EPC inference-making mechanisms in a sample of 203 young couples. Men made more accurate inferences (φmen = 0.66, φwomen = 0.46), and the ratio of positive errors to negative errors was higher for men than for women (1.22 vs. 0.18). Since some may have been reluctant to admit EPC behavior, we modeled how underreporting could have influenced these results. These analyses indicated that it would take highly sex-differentiated levels of underreporting by subjects with trusting partners for there to be no real sex difference. Further analyses indicated that men may be less willing to harbor unresolved suspicions about their partners’ EPC behavior, which may explain the sex difference in accuracy. Finally, we estimated that women underreported their own EPC behavior (10%) more than men (0%).


Accuracy Bias Error Evolutionary psychology Extrapair copulation Infidelity Jealousy Sex differences 



PWA was supported by a National Research Service Award from the National Institutes of Health, P32 MH-20030 (PI: Michael C. Neale). Rosalind Arden, Judith Easton, Todd Shackelford, Andy Thomson, Tina Wagers, and two anonymous reviews provided comments. Chuck Gardner provided statistical advice.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul W. Andrews
    • 1
    Email author
  • Steven W. Gangestad
    • 2
  • Geoffrey F. Miller
    • 2
  • Martie G. Haselton
    • 3
  • Randy Thornhill
    • 4
  • Michael C. Neale
    • 1
  1. 1.Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral GeneticsVirginia Commonwealth UniversityRichmondUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of New MexicoAlbuquerqueUSA
  3. 3.Communication StudiesUniversity of California, Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA
  4. 4.Department of BiologyUniversity of New MexicoAlbuquerqueUSA

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