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Can Personality Affect Our Ability to Detect Infidelity?

Facets of personality are associated with improved detection of infidelity.

Key points

  • In a recent study, increased romantic jealousy was associated with a higher likelihood of discovering an infidelity.
  • Neuroticism was associated with increased jealousy and an increased tendency to discover a partner's infidelity.
  • Openness to new experiences was associated with decreased jealousy and a decreased likelihood of discovering infidelity.
John Schnobrich/Unsplash
Source: John Schnobrich/Unsplash

New research conducted by Apostolou and Antonopoulou (2022) suggests that the factors of romantic jealousy and neuroticism are associated with an increased tendency to detect a romantic partner’s infidelity, while openness to new experiences is associated with a reduced likelihood of discovering a partner’s infidelity. However, readers should be cautious about becoming more jealous or neurotic in order to discover whether a partner is being unfaithful.

Assessment of Personality Factors, Jealousy, and Infidelity

For this project researchers recruited more than 900 participants from the Republic of Cyprus via social media and email. The average age of the respondents was 32 years for women and 35 years for men. Most of the participants were either in a relationship or married (56 percent), followed by single (38 percent), and “other” relationship status (6 percent). The researchers measured romantic jealousy, as well as responses to a personality inventory assessing the Big 5 personality factors. The researchers also asked participants whether they had ever found that a current or previous partner was unfaithful as well as whether they had ever been unfaithful to one of their romantic partners. The researchers hypothesized that individuals who experienced more romantic jealousy would also have an enhanced ability to detect a partner’s infidelity.

Although more than 50 percent of the participants stated that they had been victims of infidelity perpetrated by a romantic partner, more than 50 percent of the participants also stated that they had never cheated on a partner themselves. The authors found that participants who expressed more romantic jealousy were also more likely to report discovering that one of their partners had been unfaithful. Similarly, individuals who reported being unfaithful themselves were also more likely to have detected a partner’s infidelity. Moreover, the authors also found that participants who scored higher in neuroticism were more likely to be romantically jealous and, therefore, also more likely to have discovered a partner’s infidelity. The reverse effect was present for openness to new experiences; those who scored higher in openness were less likely to be romantically jealous and, therefore, were less likely to detect a partner’s infidelity.

Higher Romantic Jealousy

The authors suggest that individuals who score higher in romantic jealousy might be more likely to actively try to detect a partner’s infidelity, which might also lead to their self-reported higher likelihood of discovering that a partner had been unfaithful. However, there are good reasons to be skeptical of this interpretation of the results. As the authors stipulate, it may be the case that individuals who have previously detected an unfaithful partner simply experience more romantic jealousy than those who have never experienced an unfaithful partner. It may also be the case that individuals become more anxious or neurotic because of their prior experiences with unfaithful partners. According to the authors, increased romantic jealousy may damage existing relationships, thus actually causing both increased infidelity and the increased detection of infidelity in more jealous relationships.

Furthermore, the self-reported incidence of jealousy may not be accurate. In the current research project, the authors did not measure whether participants’ partners acknowledged being unfaithful in these relationships. In some relationships, it may be the case that infidelity was suspected but not confirmed. Future research will be necessary to determine whether increased romantic jealousy or neuroticism actually improves one’s ability to detect infidelity in their romantic relationships.


Apostolou, M., & Antonopoulou, A. (2022). Does Jealousy Protect People from Infidelity? Investigating the Interplay Between Romantic Jealousy, Personality and the Probability of Detecting Infidelity. Adaptive Human Behavior and Physiology, 8(3), 370-381.

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