When it comes to infidelity what aspect of cheating bothers men and women the most? A new study has revealed that while men focus on whether their partner had sex with someone else, woman focus on whether their partner was in love with someone else.
New research based on the US TV show Cheaters, which catches unfaithful spouses in the act, suggests that its findings could shed light on how our psychology evolved, Live Science reported.
While scientists have long suggested that men and woman tend to act differently to adultery, with men caring more about sexual infidelity and woman caring more about emotional infidelity, the explanation surrounding this is based on evolution.
Researcher Barry Kuhle, who is an evolutionary psychologist at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania, says men want children that they know are their own, while women want a partner to care for them, not their rivals.
Until now past studies of gender reactions to jealousy have been measured on a memory or an imagination basis with participants asked about past experiences or how they would react is their partner was unfaithful.
Cheaters however, captures real-time reactions, and Kuhle believes this study of this kind being one of the only ways to observe actual jealous behaviour. On the show investigators uncover evidence of infidelity, and the producers record jealousy-fuelled interrogations of cheaters by victims.
Kuhle and his colleagues have analysed 51 episodes of Cheaters with 75 cases of victims interrogating cheaters — 45 female victims and 30 male victims. And their findings show that men usually asked more about sex and women asked more about emotion.
"The emotion of jealousy shows clear evidence of evolution's fingerprints," Kuhle said.
"Natural selection has designed men to be acutely sensitive to being cuckolded and women to losing their partner's time, attention and resources. Our skulls house a Stone Age mind in a modern-day world."
The study found that male victims asked questions about sex about 57 percent of the time, while female victims, only asked about sex 29 percent of the time. On the other hand, female victims asked about emotion with questions such as "Do you love her?" in 71 percent of cases, compared with just 43 percent for male victims.
"Actual jealous behaviour from men and women who have actually been cheated on conforms to evolutionary psychological expectations and dovetails perfectly with research done previously that asked people to anticipate how they would behave in these circumstances," Kuhle said.
When questioned about the realness of the Cheaters episodes, after concerns regarding this work were raised Kuhle argued it is unlikely that most of the show's 400 to 450 love triangles were staged. He said that "it would be unethical and impractical to design a true experiment in which researchers hired confederates to sleep with participants' partners and then observed the participants' upset at and interrogations of their partners."
Kuhle said it was important to keep in mind that not every couple would necessarily conform to these findings.
"Every man and every woman did not conform to this pattern," he said.