Study shows even cheaters' guilt is selfish

photo by optimal_tweezers

The other week we explained how evolutionary psychology can be so annoying sometimes, what with all its assumptions about modern-day dating and mating behavior based on hunter-gatherer societies. Sure, sometimes those theories are fascinating and even enlightening, but sometimes they’re just plain wrong.

Well, here’s another one for the “assume makes an ass of u and me” file: Researchers studying cheating assumed that men would feel guiltier about emotional infidelity while women would feel guiltier about sexual infidelity — because, the theory went, men know that women place a high value on emotional loyalty, and women know that men’s sex drive is supposedly more biologically hard-wired. Sugar and spice and all things nice, etc.

Turns out, the results didn’t fit quite so neatly into that little theory. In fact, the research showed the exact opposite: Men felt guiltier after sexual infidelity, and women after emotional infidelity. Which actually makes a whole lot more sense to us — you feel guilty about the thing that would hurt you the most, rather than about the thing that would hurt your partner the most. Cheating is the ultimate selfish act, so why should the guilt associated with it be empathetic in any way?

More from EM & LO: