Sex Differences and the Effect of Rival Characteristics on Adults’ Judgments of Hypothetical Infidelity

Ashley E Thompson, Caileigh Zimmerman, Danica Kulibert, Elle Moore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Previous research has revealed the importance of assessing the influence of rival characteristics on sex differences in reports of romantic jealousy. However, no research has addressed how a hypothetical rival may influence sex differences in judgments of infidelity (i.e., the range of behaviors incorporated into an individual’s understanding of infidelity). Thus, the current study adopted evolutionary theory as a framework for examining whether differences in a hypothetical rivals’ sex, sexual orientation, physical attractiveness, financial status, age, and familiarity influenced male’s and female’s judgments of three categories of infidelity-related behavior (sexual/explicit, technology/online, and emotional/affectionate behaviors). A between-subject experimental design was employed by asking 390 US adults (200 males, 190 females) to report their judgments of infidelity to a variety of behaviors by assigning them to one of four conditions with which the characteristics of a hypothetical rival were manipulated. Our results indicated that, despite the influence of physical attractiveness and familiarity, characteristics associated with a hypothetical rival did not influence judgments of infidelity for either sex. These findings indicate that, because judgments are often formed very quickly, details pertaining to the rival are likely not incorporated during infidelity judgment formation. Implications for educators, practitioners, and researchers are discussed.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalEvolutionary Psychological Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2017


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