Psychopathic individuals more likely to view sexual fantasies and emotional expressions as infidelity, study finds

Psychopathic individuals more likely to view sexual fantasies and emotional expressions as infidelity, study finds

Psychopathic individuals more likely to view sexual fantasies and emotional expressions as infidelity, study finds

A study in the UK explored the relationship between Dark Triad personality and what is considered to be infidelity in exclusive romantic relationships. The results showed that strongly psychopathic people were more likely to perceive fantasy about having sex with other people and expressing emotions towards someone other than the partner as infidelity. But a different pattern emerged among those raised in Machiavellianism.

The study was published in Personality and individual differences.

Infidelity, being unfaithful to a spouse or romantic partner is a serious threat in committed and exclusive romantic relationships. There are, however, substantial differences, both between cultures and individuals, in their views on what exactly constitutes infidelity. While sex with someone who is not the romantic partner is generally considered the epitome of infidelity, there is much less agreement on whether actions such as public displays of affection or exchanges of affectionate messages also constitute infidelity.

One group of factors to consider when exploring differences between individuals with respect to infidelity are personality traits, particularly the dark triad. The dark triad consists of personality traits of Machiavellianism (the tendency to act and think in an excessively manipulative and calculating way), psychopathy (the tendency to exhibit impulsive, thrill-seeking behavior and show little empathy towards others), and narcissism (the tendency to feel legitimate, dominant and superior to others).

To determine whether differences in these personality traits could help explain individual differences in opinions about what constitutes infidelity in a romantic relationship, study author Gayle Brewer and colleagues at the University of Liverpool interviewed a group of 664 people between the ages of 18 and 73. Of the sample, 436 participants were female and 71.7% identified as heterosexual. Participants were recruited “via social media and a UK University participation points system”.

Participants completed a series of demographic measures, an assessment of Machiavellianism, narcissism, and psychopathy. They also completed an assessment of perceptions of infidelity (the Perceived Infidelity Questionnaire), to which the study authors made some adjustments. This assessment asks participants to rate whether and to what extent the listed behaviors constitute infidelity on a scale from 1 (definitely not infidelity) to 4 (definitely infidelity). Listed are behaviors such as “Having an intimate emotional phone conversation with someone other than your partner” or “Masturbating while in computer contact with someone other than your partner.

The results showed that the behaviors listed in the assessment of perceptions of infidelity can be organized into five groups – online infidelity, consisting of behaviors such as “Receiving photos from an online contact” or “Masturbating during online contact with another person”, fantasy infidelityconsisting of “predominantly solitary, sexually oriented behaviors that involve fantasizing about other people (e.g., ‘Watching pornographic films’)”, emotional infidelity, consisting of “an expressed emotional attachment to a third person that does not necessarily involve a romantic element (e.g., “having an intimate emotional connection with someone other than your partner”)”, sexual infidelitywhich includes explicit and interactive sexual behaviors with someone who is not the romantic partner and finally, hidden attachmentconsisting of feelings of attraction to people other than one’s partner, but which remain unexpressed and unfulfilled (“Being engaged in a monogamous relationship while hiding an emotional attachment”).

In general, behaviors in the sexual infidelity group were considered cheating by most participants, followed by behaviors in the online infidelity group. Behaviors in the fantasized infidelity group were seen as not really representing infidelity by most, while opinions on emotional infidelity and hidden attachment were divided, but clearly tending to perceive them as infidelity. infidelity.

When Dark Triad personality traits were taken into account, results showed that people with high levels of Machiavellianism were less likely to perceive behaviors from the fantasized infidelity group and those from the emotional infidelity group as infidelity, but the reverse was the case for those with high levels of primary psychopathy.

“Primary psychopathy is associated with greater emotional jealousy,” the study authors wrote. “Therefore, the association between primary psychopathy and the perception of fantasy and emotional expression as infidelity may, in part, reflect greater overall susceptibility to infidelity. characterized by weaker empathy and perspective taking.As a result, it may be difficult for people with psychopaths to understand their partner’s motivation for sexual fantasies (eg, sexual release) or emotional relationships with others ( for example, companionship) and to separate this from other behaviors that more directly pose a threat to the primary relationship.

However, people with strong primary psychopathy were less likely to view sexual infidelity and hidden attachment group behaviors as infidelity. This may reflect the greater tendency of people with strong primary psychopathy to engage in sexual infidelity and make it easier to justify their extra-couple sexual behavior as not constituting infidelity,” the researchers said.

Narcissism and secondary psychopathy were not associated with perceptions of infidelity.

The study makes an important contribution to the knowledge of the psychological mechanisms of romantic relationships. However, it should be noted that it relied solely on self-report measures and did not take into account the characteristics of the romantic relationship in which the person is. Moreover, it did not take into account that people might have different opinions about the types of behavior they allow. themselves and what they would consider to be infidelity on the part of their partner.

The study, “But It Wasn’t Really Cheating: Dark Triad Traits and Perceptions of Infidelity,” was authored by Gayle Brewer, Alexandra Guothova, and Dimitris Tsivilis.

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