Relationship power and betrayal experience as predictors of reactions to infidelity

Margit I. Berman, Patricia A Frazier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Explanations for sexual infidelity have been dominated by an evolutionary psychological theory of jealousy that finds its strongest support in research that employs a forced-choice hypothetical infidelity paradigm wherein participants imagine experiencing infidelity and choose whether sexual or emotional infidelity would be more distressing. Robust gender differences that support evolutionary psychological perspectives are consistently found using this paradigm, but recent work suggests that gender differences may be attenuated among actual infidelity victims. However, no research has used the forced-choice paradigm to compare real and hypothetical infidelity. This study uses this paradigm to compare reactions to imagined dating infidelity to those of infidelity victims. No gender differences are observed in response to the forced-choice question among victims of infidelity. Gender differences among participants who imagined infidelity are partially mediated by level of relationship power. Difficulties with the hypothetical forced-choice paradigm and implications for the evolutionary psychological theory of jealousy are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1617-1627
Number of pages11
JournalPersonality and social psychology bulletin
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2005


  • Betrayal
  • Evolutionary psychology
  • Infidelity
  • Jealousy
  • Relationship power


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