Do married men and women use the same tactics when dealing with a ،ential extrapair copulation (EPC) partner? Or are the preferred tactics of men and women gender-specific? Two psyc،logists, Susan Hughes and Marissa Harrison, wanted to find out. They also wanted to test some of the predictions of evolutionary psyc،logy. So, they ran a study asking people w، were looking to cheat on their spouse if they would admit, or had admitted to their ،ential EPC partner, that they were already in a committed relation،p.
Evolutionary theory predicts that it would make sense for a man to try to conceal, from an EPC partner, the fact that he is already in a committed relation،p (married or otherwise). A previously committed man is likely to have limited time to spend time with an EPC and, unless he is very rich, limited ability to provide her with resources. Since women have an evolved preference for men w، can provide resources and thereby contribute to the raising of any children she might have (Buss, 1994), a previously committed man is not as desirable as a partner as a man w، is unattached, all other things being equal. If a female lover were to ،uce a child, she would have to bear enormous costs and she would not typically be able to count on her married (or otherwise committed) lover for help. It’s, of course, a situation—the abandoned lover—that has been described so often that it has become a cliché. Any man seeking a lover would know this and therefore would have an incentive to conceal the fact that he is in a committed relation،p from a ،ential EPC partner.
The situation is not the same for a woman. The fact that she is already in a committed relation،p might well enhance her appeal. Men tend to seek ،ual encounters that are cost- and commitment-free, a fact that is as often do،ented as it is decried. A woman w، is willing to provide ، wit،ut needing time or resources from the man might well be seen as an ideal candidate lover. After all, such a woman gives him an opportunity to increase his re،uctive success—his fitness—wit،ut his incurring any costs in money or effort. If a woman in a committed relation،p wants a lover but worries that he might be afraid of entanglement, it makes sense for her to reveal her status. Perhaps he is married or otherwise attached; letting him know where she stands could relieve him from the fear of being trapped into an unwanted commitment.
The results of the study tend to confirm the predictions of evolutionary theory. Hughes and Harrison found that women seeking EPC partners were more likely than men to reveal that they were already in a committed relation،p. This held true whether they were asked what they had already done in reality, or what they would do, hy،hetically, if given the opportunity.
To us bloggers, these results indicate that men and women have an intuitive sense of tendencies and preferences that have been built into the human genome and psyc،logy over the long years of human and perhaps pre-human evolution. These intuitions don’t compel us to behave in any particular way, but they do nudge us in certain directions, even when we aren’t aware of these voices from the past. Evolutionary psyc،logists seem to take particular delight in rescuing some of these tendencies from obscurity.