Can character have an effect on our skill to acknowledge infidelity?

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New research by Apostolou and Antonopoulou (2022) suggests that the factors of romantic jealousy and neuroticism are associated with an increased tendency to recognize a romantic partner’s infidelity, while openness to new experiences is associated with a lower likelihood of discerning a romantic partner’s infidelity partners to discover. However, readers should be wary of becoming more jealous or more neurotic in trying to figure out if a partner is 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 for women and 35 for men. Most participants were either in a relationship or married (56 percent), followed by single (38 percent) and “other” relationship status (6 percent). Researchers measured romantic jealousy as well as responses to a personality inventory that assessed the Big 5 personality factors. The researchers also asked participants if they had ever found a current or previous partner to be unfaithful and if they had ever been unfaithful to any of their romantic partners. The researchers hypothesized that individuals who experienced more romantic jealousy also had an improved ability to detect a partner’s infidelity.

Although more than 50 percent of the participants stated that they had been the victim of infidelity through a romantic partner, more than 50 percent of the participants 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, people who reported being unfaithful themselves were also more likely to have discovered a partner’s unfaithfulness. In addition, the authors also found that participants with higher neuroticism scores were more likely to be romantically jealous and therefore more likely to have discovered a partner’s infidelity. The reverse effect was present with openness to new experiences; Those who scored higher in openness were less likely to be romantically jealous and therefore less likely to recognize a partner’s infidelity.

Higher romantic jealousy

The authors suggest that individuals who score higher on romantic jealousy may be more likely to be actively trying to detect a partner’s infidelity, which could also lead to a self-reported likelihood of discovering that a partner has been unfaithful. However, there are good reasons to be skeptical about this interpretation of the results. As the authors note, people who have previously encountered an unfaithful partner may simply experience more romantic jealousy than those who have never encountered an unfaithful partner. People may also become more anxious or neurotic because of past experiences with unfaithful partners. According to the authors, increased romantic jealousy can damage existing relationships and thus actually cause both increased infidelity and increased recognition of infidelity in more jealous relationships.

Additionally, self-reported occurrences of jealousy may not be accurate. In the current research project, the authors did not measure whether the participants’ partners admitted to being unfaithful in these relationships. In some relationships, infidelity may have been suspected but not confirmed. Future research will be necessary to determine whether increased romantic jealousy or neuroticism actually improves the ability to detect infidelity in their romantic relationships.

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