How Your Mate Value Affects Your Responses to Infidelity

I am top dog on the mating market: Don’t cheat on me!

Posted Apr 19, 2014

In a previous post, I wrote about how men and women are differentially jealous to sexual versus emotional infidelity of their romantic partners (men and women are more concerned about sexual infidelity and emotional infidelity respectively). On a related note, I’ve also written about how people glean individuals’ likelihood of committing an actual or ascribed infidelity as a function of their faces or voice pitches. In today’s post, I’d like to add to the infidelity theme by describing a 2014 article coauthored by John E. Edlund and Brad J. Sagarin and published in Personality and Individual Differences in which they achieved two key objectives: 1) Devised a new four-item measure to capture an individual’s mate value (studies 1 and 2); 2) Examined how mate value moderates individuals’ responses to sexual versus emotional infidelity (study 3). For the purposes of today’s article, I shall focus on study 3. The authors theorized that individuals’ possessing higher mate value scores would be more pronounced in the sex-specificity of their responses to sexual versus emotional infidelity.

Ninety-eight students (55 women; 43 men; sex breakdown was emailed to me by John E. Edlund) who had been cheated on by a partner were asked to respond to the following question: “To what degree did you experience jealousy over the emotional (sexual) aspects of your partner’s infidelity?” The dependent measure was a seven-point scale with the endpoints “Not at all” and “Completely”.  The question referred to the most recent case of infidelity (assuming that an individual might have experienced this reality on multiple occasions).  The participants also filled out the mate value scale along with several other demographic questions. 

The results were consistent with the authors’ hypothesis. Specifically, the sex-specificity of the jealousy effect (i.e., that sexual infidelity triggers greater jealousy in men while emotional infidelity yields greater jealousy in women) was amplified for individuals of high mate value. Bottom line:  Individuals’ mate values in part shape how they will respond to perceived threats to their romantic relationships.  

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