People in Positions of Power Are More Likely to Commit Infidelity
There are a number of factors that make a person more or less likely to cheat on a romantic partner. Men, at least historically, are more likely to cheat than women. Certain personality types and traits are more prone to cheating, and new research suggests that certain genes may even play a role in infidelity. In addition, a study from Denmark suggests that people in positions of power are more likely be unfaithful.
In 2011, researchers from Tilburg University and the University of Groningen surveyed 1,561 professional men and women. In addition to asking about their histories of infidelity or intentions to commit infidelity, the researchers had the study subjects indicate their positions in their organizations or companies by ranking their places in the power hierarchy from one to 100. They discovered that people who held relatively elevated positions at work were more likely to have cheated on a significant other or to report a strong likelihood of future infidelity.
More Confidence in Attracting a Sexual Partner
This study also explored why power might make people more likely to cheat. The researchers looked at three possible mediators: whether power made people feel more distant from their partners, whether people in power perceived lower risk in cheating and whether power made people feel more confident about attracting partners.
The researchers found that the reason people in positions of power were more likely to cheat was that having power increased a person’s confidence in his or her ability to attract a sexual partner. This suggests that people with comparatively more power may not be any more inclined to cheat than people with less power, but that power facilitates cheating or makes people believe they will be able to cheat.
Psychological distance between partners also had a slight effect on the relationship between power and infidelity, although not nearly as strong as increased confidence. Perceived risk did not appear to have anything to do with the power/infidelity relationship.
Is Power Why Men Are More Likely to Cheat?
According to the results of the Danish study, power has the same effect on women as men when it comes to infidelity. The women in the study who held elevated positions not only showed the same increased likelihood of cheating as the men in the study, but were also more likely to cheat for the same reason—that they had greater confidence in their abilities to attract a sexual partner.
Over the years, a large quantity of research has demonstrated pretty conclusively that men cheat on their significant others more frequently than women cheat. However, recent research also suggests that the gap between men and women is shrinking when it comes to infidelity.
The results of this study suggest that the explanation for why men cheat more is not just about higher sex drives or more evolutionary incentives to have multiple sexual partners. Instead, at least part of the reason men have historically engaged in more infidelity may be that they have held more positions of power than women.
Men continue to hold more positions of power in business, government, etc., but women have made significant gains in recent decades when it comes to entering the highest levels of the workforce. If women eventually establish true equality with men in terms of employment and pay, women may pull even with men in another way as well and cheat in similar numbers.