Sexuality & Culture

, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 643–658 | Cite as

Effect of Cheating Experience on Attitudes toward Infidelity

  • Desiree I. Sharpe
  • Andrew S. Walters
  • Matt J. Goren
Original Paper


The present study investigated how cheating experience influences perception of others’ infidelity. Using vignette characters, we explored the hypothesis that a participant’s experience cheating on a partner and gender of vignette character moderate gender-differentiated perceptions of infidelity (i.e., men reporting more accepting attitudes toward infidelity than women). Participants (N = 320) were asked a series of questions evaluating both how ‘acceptable’ and ‘forgivable’ was a vignette character’s infidelity. Men and women with prior experience cheating found the cheating vignette character of their same gender significantly more acceptable and forgivable than the unfaithful character of the other gender. Participants who reported no history of infidelity found infidelity as generally unacceptable, regardless of character gender.


Extradyadic Gender differences Infidelity experience Cheating experience Cognitive dissonance 


  1. Allen, E. S., & Atkins, D. C. (2005). The multidimensional and developmental nature of infidelity: Practical applications. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 61, 1371–1382.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Allen, E. S., Atkins, D. C., Baucom, D. H., Snyder, D. K., Gordon, K. C., & Glass, S. P. (2005). Intrapersonal, interpersonal, and contextual factors in engaging in and responding to extramarital involvement. Clinical Psychology Science and Practice, 12, 101–130.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Allen, E. S., & Baucom, D. H. (2006). Dating, marital, and hypothetical extradyadic involvements: How do they compare? Journal of Sex Research, 43, 307–317.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Amato, P. R., & Previti, D. (2003). People’s reasons for divorcing: Gender, social class, the life course, and adjustment. Journal of Family Issues, 24, 602–626.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Atkins, D. C., Yi, J., Baucom, D. H., & Christensen, A. (2005). Infidelity in couples seeking marital therapy. Journal of Family Psychology, 19, 470–473.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Atwood, J. D., & Seifer, M. (1997). Extramarital affairs and constructed meanings: A social constructionist therapeutic approach. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 25, 55–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Berman, M. I., & Frazier, P. A. (2005). Relationship power and betrayal experience as predictors of reactions to infidelity. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 31, 1617–1627.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bird, M. H., Butler, M. H., & Fife, S. T. (2007). The process of couple healing following infidelity: A qualitative study. Journal of Couple and Relationship Therapy, 6, 1–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Buss, D. M., Larsen, R. J., & Westen, D. (1996). Sex differences in jealousy: Not gone, not forgotten, and not easily explained by alternative hypotheses. Psychological Science, 7, 373–375.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Buss, D. M., Larsen, R. J., Westen, D., & Semmelroth, J. (1992). Sex differences in jealousy: Evolution, physiology, and psychology. Psychological Science, 3, 251–255.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Buss, D. M., & Shackelford, T. K. (1997). Susceptibility to infidelity in the first year of marriage. Journal of Research in Personality, 31, 193–221.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Buunk, B. P., & Dijkstra, P. (2004). Gender differences in rival characteristics that evoke jealousy in response to emotional versus sexual infidelity. Personal Relationships, 11, 395–408.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Caprio, F. S. (1953). Marital infidelity. Secaucus, NJ: Citadel Press.Google Scholar
  14. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Department of Health and Human Services (2002). Cohabitation, marriage, divorce, remarriage in the United States. Retrieved March 26, 2007, from
  15. Charny, I. W., & Parnass, S. (1995). The impact of extramarital relationships on the continuation of marriages. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 21, 100–115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Christensen, H. T. (1973). Attitudes toward marital infidelity: A nine-cultural sampling of university student opinion. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 4, 197–214.Google Scholar
  17. DeMaris, A. (2009). Distal and proximal influences on the risk of extramarital sex: A prospective study of longer duration marriages. Journal of Sex Research, 46, 597–607. doi: 10.1080/00224490902915993.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. DeSteno, D., Bartlett, M. Y., Braverman, J., & Salovey, P. (2002). Sex differences in jealousy: Evolutionary mechanism or artifact of measurement? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83, 1103–1116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. DeSteno, D. A., & Salovey, P. (1996). Evolutionary origins of sex differences in jealousy? Questioning the ‘fitness’ of the model. Psychological Science, 7, 376–377.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Drigotas, S. M., Safstrom, C. A., & Gentilia, T. (1999). An investment model prediction of dating infidelity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77, 509–524.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Edlund, J. E., Heider, J. D., Scherer, C. R., Fare, M., & Sagarin, B. J. (2006). Sex differences in jealousy in response to actual infidelity. Evolutionary Psychology, 4, 462–470.Google Scholar
  22. Feldman, S. S., & Cauffman, E. (1999). Your cheatin’ heart: Attitudes, behaviors, and correlates of sexual betrayal in late adolescents. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 9, 227–252.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Festinger, L., & Carlsmith, J. M. (1959). Cognitive consequences of forced compliance. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 58, 203–210.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Gallagher, M. (2001). What is marriage for? The public purposes of marriage law. Retrieved March 4, 2007
  25. Gonyea, J. L. J. (2004). Internet sexuality: Clinical implications for couples. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 32, 375–390.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gould, T. (2000). The lifestyle: A look at the erotic rites of swingers. Buffalo, NY: Firefly books.Google Scholar
  27. Greene, B. L., Lee, R. R., & Lustig, N. (1974). Conscious and unconscious factors in marital infidelity. Medical Aspects of Human Sexuality, 8, 97–105.Google Scholar
  28. Haavio-Mannila, E., & Kontula, O. (2003). Single and double standards in Finland, Estonia, and St Petersburg. Journal of Sex Research, 40, 36–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hall, J. H., & Fincham, F. D. (2006). Relationship dissolution following infidelity: The roles of attributions and foregiveness. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 25, 508–522.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hall, J. H., & Fincham, F. D. (2009). Psychological distress: Precursor or consequence of dating infidelity? Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35, 143–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Hansen, G. L. (1987). Extradyadic relations during courtship. Journal of Sex Research, 23, 382–390.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Harris, C. R. (1996). Gender, jealousy, and reason. Psychological Science, 7, 364–366.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Harris, C. R. (2002). Sexual and romantic jealousy in heterosexual and homosexual adults. Psychological Science, 13, 7–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Harris, C. R. (2003a). Factors associated with jealousy over real and imagined infidelity: An examination of the social-cognitive and evolutionary psychology perspectives. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 27, 319–329.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Harris, C. R. (2003b). A review of sex differences in sexual jealousy, including self-report data, psychophysiological responses, interpersonal violence, and morbid jealousy. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 7, 102–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Harris, C. R. (2005). Male and female jealousy, still more similar than different: Reply to Sagarin. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 9, 26–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Harris, C. R., & Christenfeld, N. (1996). Jealousy and rational responses to infidelity across gender and culture. Psychological Science, 7, 378–379.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Huebner, D. M., Neilands, T. B., Rebchook, G. M., & Kegeles, S. M. (2011). Sorting through chickens and eggs: A longitudinal examination of the associations between attitudes, norms, and sexual risk behavior. Health Psychology, 30, 110–118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Hunyady, O., Josephs, L., & Jost, J. T. (2008). Priming the primal scene: Betrayal trauma, narcissim, and attitudes toward sexual infidelity. Self and Identity, 7, 278–294.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Knox, D., Zusman, M. E., Kaluzny, M., & Sturdivant, L. (2000). Attitudes and behavior of college students toward infidelity. College Student Journal, 34, 162–164.Google Scholar
  41. Lalasz, C. B., & Weigel, D. J. (2011). Understanding the relationship between gender and extradyadic relations: The mediating role of sensation seeking on intentions to engage in sexual infidelity. Personality and Individual Differences, 50, 1079–1083.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Linquist, L., & Negy, C. (2005). Maximizing the experiences of an extra relational affair: An unconventional approach to a common social convention. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 61, 1421–1428.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Mackay, J. (2001). Global sex: Sexuality and sexual practices around the world. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 16, 71–82.Google Scholar
  44. Mattingly, B. A., Wilson, K., Clark, E. M., Bequette, A. W., & Weidler, D. J. (2010). Foggy faithfulness: Relationship quality, religiosity, and the perceptions of dating infidelity scale in an adult sample. Journal of Family Issues, 30. doi: 10.1177/0192513X10362348.
  45. Olson, L. R., Cadge, W., & Harrison, J. T. (2006). Religion and public opinion about same-sex marriages. Social Science Quarterly, 87, 340–360.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Previti, D., & Amato, P. R. (2004). Is infidelity a cause or consequence of poor marital quality? Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 21, 217–230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Prins, K. S., Buunk, B. P., & Van Yperen, N. W. (1993). Equity, normative disapproval and extramarital relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 10, 39–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Riviere, J. (1932). Jealousy as a mechanism of defense. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 13, 414–424.Google Scholar
  49. Roscoe, B., Cavanaugh, L. E., & Kennedy, D. R. (1988). Dating infidelity: Behavior, reasons, and consequences. Adolescence, 23, 35–43.Google Scholar
  50. Rubin, R. H. (2001). Alternative lifestyles revisited, or whatever happened to swingers, group marriages, and communes? Journal of Family Issues, 22, 711–726.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Sabini, J., & Green, M. C. (2004). Emotional responses to sexual and emotional infidelity: Constants and differences across genders, samples, and methods. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 30, 1375–1388.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Sagarin, B. J. (2005). Reconsidering evolved sex differences in jealousy: Comment on Harris (2003). Personality and Social Psychology Review, 9, 62–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Sagarin, B. J., Becker, D. V., Guadagno, R. E., Nicastle, L. D., & Millevoi, A. (2003). Sex differences (and similarities) in jealousy: The moderating influence of infidelity experience and sexual orientation of the infidelity. Evolution and Human Behavior, 24, 17–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Sagarin, B. J., & Guadagno, R. E. (2004). Sex differences in the context of extreme jealousy. Personal Relationships, 11, 319–328.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Schick, V., Rosenberger, J. G., Herbenick, D., Calabrese, S. K., & Reece, M. (2012). Bidentity: Sexual behavior/identity congruence and women’s sexual, physical, and mental well-being. Journal of Bisexuality, 12, 178–197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Schmitt, D. P., & Shackelford, T. K. (2003). Nifty ways to leave your lover: The tactics people use to entice and disguise the process of human mate poaching. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 29, 1018–1035.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Schützwohl, A. (2005). Sex differences in jealousy: The processing of cues to infidelity. Evolution and Human Behavior, 26, 288–299.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Schützwohl, A. (2006). Sex differences in jealousy: Information search and cognitive preoccupation. Personality and Individual Differences, 40, 285–292.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Shackelford, T. K., & Buss, D. M. (2000). Marital satisfaction and spousal cost- infliction. Personality and Individual Differences, 28, 917–928.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Shackelford, T. K., LeBlanc, G. J., & Drass, E. (2000). Emotional reactions to infidelity. Cognition and Emotion, 14, 643–659.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Shackelford, T. K., Voracek, M., Schmitt, D. P., Buss, D. M., Weekes-Shackelford, B. A., & Michalski, R. L. (2004). Romantic jealousy in early adulthood and in later life. Human Nature, 15, 283–300.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Sheppard, V. J., Nelson, E. S., & Andreoli-Mathie, V. (1995). Dating relationships and infidelity: Attitudes and behavior. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 21, 202–212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Stebleton, M. J., & Rothenberger, J. H. (1993). Truth or consequences: Dishonesty in dating and HIV/AIDS-related issues in a college-age population. Journal of American College Health, 42, 51–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Stone, E. A., Goetz, A. T., & Shackelford, T. K. (2005). Sex differences and similarities in preferred mating arrangements. Sexualities, Evolution, & Gender, 7, 269–276.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Thompson, A. P. (1982). Extramarital relations: Gaining greater awareness. Personnel Guide Journal, 61, 102–105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Thornton, A., & Young De-Marco, L. (2001). Four decades of trends in attitudes toward family issues in the United States: The 1960s through the 1990s. Journal of Marriage & the Family, 63, 1009–1037.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Treas, J., & Giesen, D. (2000). Sexual infidelity among married and cohabitating Americans. Journal of Marriage & the Family, 62, 48–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. United Nations Population Division Department of Economic and Social Affairs. (2000). World Marriage Patterns 2000. Retrieved March 3, 2007, from
  69. Varga, C. M., Gee, C. B., & Munro, G. (2011). The effects of sample characteristics and experience with infidelity on romantic jealousy. Sex Roles, 65, 854–866.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Weis, D. L., & Felton, J. R. (1987). Marital exclusivity and the potential for marital conflict. Social Work, 32, 45–49.Google Scholar
  71. Whitty, M. T. (2003). Pushing the wrong buttons: Men’s and women’s attitudes toward online and offline infidelity. CyberPsychology and Behavior, 6, 569–579.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Wiederman, M. W., & Allgeier, E. R. (1993). Gender differences in sexual jealousy: Adaptionist or social learning explanation? Ethology & Sociobiology, 14, 115–140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Wiederman, M. W., & Hurd, C. (1999). Extradyadic involvement during dating. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 16, 256–274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Young, K. S., Griffin-Shelley, E., Cooper, A., O’Mara, J., & Buchanan, J. (2000). Online infidelity: A new dimension in couple relationships with implications for evaluation and treatment. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, 7, 59–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Desiree I. Sharpe
    • 1
  • Andrew S. Walters
    • 2
  • Matt J. Goren
    • 3
  1. 1.Psychology DepartmentUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA
  2. 2.Northern Arizona UniversityFlagstaffUSA
  3. 3.University of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA

Personalised recommendations