Not to burst your bubble if you're dating someone with a job at the top of the food chain or anything, but just in case you want it, here's some sobering news: According to a new study, people in positions of power are more likely to cheat on their partners than people in positions lower on the ladder. I guess now we know why so many sex scandals involve politicians, CEOS, and celebrities, right?
The study, which was published in the Journal of Sex Research, took its cues from previous research in order to find an explanation for the “powerful people cheat” phenomenon. The researchers' hypothesis was threefold: First, that power “psychologically releases people from the inhibiting effects of social norms,” thus making it seem OK — and perhaps even desirable — to engage in cheating behavior; second, that power increases sexual appetite in general — that is, with regards to activity considered both “normative” and “counternormative”; and third, that power makes men, but not women, “seem more attractive to others,” upping their access to potential partners and opportunities
In order to test out these hypotheses, the researchers took a look at correlational data from 610 Dutch men and women. The found that the first part of their theory could likely be true: States the study, “Power's relationship with infidelity was statistically mediated by increased attraction to the secrecy associated with infidelity” — or, in layperson's terms, there was a connection between people in power and the titillating secrecy cheating inspires. However, the second two hypotheses didn't hold up: Power was linked with infidelity, but not casual sex among singles, and the link between infidelity and power existed as much for women as for men.
And also probably pirates.
But even among those in power, behavior will still vary from person to person based on a variety of other qualities and attributes. Mic, for example, took these findings and applied them to how people who are both powerful and considered conventionally attractive might differ from people who are powerful and... well, not so pretty. Wrote Kate Hakala:
“Think of the personal affairs of Anthony Weiner, Bill Clinton, and even the fictitious Christian Grey; people in careers that have enormous influence like politicians, pop stars, and actors have a long track record of public infidelities. Science suggests that the expansiveness and formidability of their careers lends itself to an overall lack of accountability in their love lives.
“This might be why attractive, wealth, and formidable people are likely to be less generous than individuals who don't meet mainstream beauty standards, as other studies have shown. When people assume positions of power, either through their careers or perceived level of attractiveness, there's less of an incentive to consider others, even if they're your romantic partners.”
Which isn't to say that pretty people necessarily cheat more — but it might be a factor in whether or not they do. Just, y'know… something to bear in mind.
Obviously there are a huge variety of other things that might play into how likely someone is to engage in infidelity than just your job or how conventionally attractive you are. In 2014, for example, researchers teamed up with Ashley Madison and found that men just about to turn over a decade — that is, those at the ages of 29, 39, 49, 59, and so on — are more likely to have an affair (because if anyone would know that sort of information, it would be Ashley Madison). Furthermore, a recent study also found some genetic factors that might correlate with cheating for both men and women. And these are only two examples; just as there are plenty of fish in the sea, there are also plenty of cheaters — with all the reasons those cheaters cite to go with them.
But even noting all of this crazy stuff about cheating, let's all just remind ourselves of this: Cheating on someone is a choice. And if you do it, you have to deal with the consequences of it. So… let's all just agree not to cheat, OK? Go talk about your issues instead. It'll make life so much better for just about everyone.