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Personality Research articles on personality

28Jan/101

Personality Traits of People Who Cheat in Romantic Relationships

The following experimental item was given to 1500 test takers.

I have hooked up with other people when I was in a committed relationship.

These were the traits with the most significant correlations.

men women r2 avg
fiscal acumen -0.184 -0.234 0.044286
hedonism 0.169 0.232 0.041293
sexual 0.189 0.173 0.032834
self image 0.177 0.184 0.03263
histrionic 0.160 0.171 0.027352
ethics -0.115 -0.190 0.024627
vanity 0.143 0.162 0.023437
honor -0.135 -0.169 0.023303
accommodation -0.189 -0.109 0.023875
conflict seeking 0.145 0.133 0.019374
discreet -0.098 -0.170 0.019303
need to dominate 0.173 0.081 0.018269
materialism 0.162 0.097 0.017824
actor 0.149 0.068 0.013361

(*significance alpha = .05 > .07 correlation, sample size 1500)

Selfishness, physical attractiveness, substance abuse, lack of ethics, lack of impulse control, sexual addiction, among other traits all make it more likely that one has cheated.   Men are only slightly more likely to cheat than women (or admit to it on an anonymous test) based on this data.    Selfish men are more likely to self rate as cheaters than selfish women possibly because selfish women perceive that it might not be in their self interest to cheat.   Women are more likely than men to be financially dependent on their partner so relationship dissolution is a greater liability.

Unethical women are more likely to self rate as having cheated.  This gender divide may be explained by women being more picky in mates than men.  Men will hook up with unethical women, women may be less likely to hook up with unethical men.  The same phenomena may explain the gender difference in the Discreet trait scores.

Domineering, Materialistic, and Actor high scoring men also are more likely to cheat than similar high scoring women.  Need to Dominate and Materialism differences may be explained by those traits being more attractive to women than they are to men.

big five/sloan men women
social 0.065 0.085
limbic -0.049 -0.035
orderly 0.001 -0.030
accomodation -0.189 -0.109
non-curious 0.107 -0.031
type slxen sluei

The big five/sloan profile is a little different for each gender.   Selfishness and lack of curiosity defines the male cheater.  Low curiosity makes sense from the standpoint that a non introspective person is less likely to consider / think about whether his behavior is harmful to others.   Socialness and Selfishness define the unfaithful female.  Social females are exposed to more opportunity to cheat than less social females and even social males (since women are pickier than men).

The second infidelity item was:

I have carried on romantic affairs while I was in a committed relationship.

One time cheating could be considered a smaller offense than partaking in an ongoing affair.  So I was curious to see whether the above item showed a different pattern than the first.   The average score was pretty much the same, slightly lower.

men women r2 avg
self image 0.189 0.207 0.039329
hedonism 0.158 0.228 0.038552
histrionic 0.181 0.181 0.032819
vanity 0.164 0.182 0.029964
fiscal acumen -0.131 -0.198 0.028341
ethics -0.142 -0.192 0.028473
sexual 0.158 0.168 0.026539
need to dominate 0.207 0.101 0.026484
honor -0.139 -0.134 0.018621
conflict seeking 0.145 0.119 0.017577
discreet -0.097 -0.148 0.015737
accomodation -0.147 -0.081 0.014135
materialism 0.145 0.095 0.014951
actor 0.107 0.086 0.009493

The correlations were pretty much the same suggesting that the personality of someone who cheats on occasion is not really that different from the personality of someone who would carry on an ongoing affair.   The small differences that exist appear to be related to impulse control.   Low Fiscal Acumen is related to having low impulse control, and it appears that one time cheating is more likely to happen in impulsive types than ongoing affairs.

big five/sloan men women
social 0.037 0.094
limbic -0.027 -0.031
orderly 0.000 -0.027
accomodation -0.147 -0.081
non-curious 0.111 -0.041
type slxen sluei

The big five/sloan profile is also the same on this item.

Wrapping up, if you're partner is any of the following - physically attractive (Self Image), really likes to drink and/or smoke (Hedonism), cares a lot about looks (Vanity), can't manage money well (low Fiscal Acumen), is unethical, really likes sex, is selfish (low Accommodation), is not reliable (low Honor),  is argumentitive (Conflict Seeking), is untrustworthy (low Discreet), really cares about money (Materialism) - they are more likely to self rate as being unfaithful.

To add some more context, I took all users who scored very high on the Self Image trait (HSI) to see their average on the above two items.  (*scoring scale is 1-5 | very inaccurate - very accurate)

all men all women
item 1 (hookup) 1.845360825 1.79793814
item 2 (affair) 1.782330346 1.74263764
HSI men HSI women
item 1 (hookup) 2.488372093 2.51162791
item 2 (affair) 2.285714286 2.2605042

As you can see the difference is significant.  Here are the averages of users who scored very high on the Vanity trait (HVa).

HVa men HVa women
item 1 (hookup) 2.631578947 2.52631579
item 2 (affair) 2.6 2.48571429
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  1. this is so true


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