Study Shows Even Cheaters' Guilt Is Selfish

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Last week we explained how evolutionary psychologists can be so annoying sometimes, what with all their assumptions about modern-day dating and mating behavior based on hunter-gatherer societies. Sure, sometimes those theories are fascinating and even enlightening, but sometimes they’re just plain wrong. Well, here’s another one for the “assume makes an ass of u and me” file: Researchers studying cheating assumed that men would feel guiltier about emotional infidelity while women would feel guiltier about sexual infidelity — because, the theory went, men know that women place a high value on emotional loyalty, and women know that men’s sex drive is supposedly more biologically hard-wired. Sugar and spice and all things nice, etc…

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5 Comments on "Study Shows Even Cheaters' Guilt Is Selfish"

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I can both agree and disagree with points in this “study”. Unfortunately, I believe therapists attempt to rationalize irrational behavior with rational thoughts and processes. Ultimately, it comes down to a choice that a partner or significant other makes. Regardless of whether or not the “guilty” party feels guilt or shame about an act or acts that they performed for another doesn’t negate the fact that the incident occurred. The one who was “wronged” is the “victim” in these circumstances regardless of whether or not the “guilty” party claims shame or other emotions or feelings, or even displays these emotions,… Read more »
Lady Tarrant
Actually, it does make sense, and it doesn’t make it selfish. Self-centered perhaps, but not selfish. What it seems the researchers have found is just simply the difference between sympathy and empathy. Cheaters who do feel guilt—because unfortunately not all of them do—may be trying to empathize with their partner. This is to say that they’re attempting to put themselves in the shoes of the wronged party. To do this they examine how they would feel if their partner had cheated on them. Thus, not surprisingly, they would feel worse if they’re partner cheated on them in the manner that… Read more »

Evolutionary psych should come with a disclaimer, like TV psychics: “for entertainment purposes only”.

Dave W

I kinda have to disagree. I think their guilt IS empathetic; it’s just that they feel worse about the type of cheating where they have a visceral sense of the depth of their betrayal. Trying to exert intellectual control over your emotions – “I ought to feel worse about A than B” – is tricky. The study didn’t say they weren’t feeling bad about the other form of cheating, just less so. Oh, and also, researchers assume things, science doesn’t.