Sex Differences in Detecting Sexual Infidelity
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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%).
KeywordsAccuracy 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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