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Evolutionary Psychology Might Explain Why Men Cheat

Updated on December 23, 2010

Why men cheat

It is an unfortunate yet often occurring act in many relationships today: cheating. While women aren't exempt from acts of infidelity, it is more often the male who is unfaithful. One must wonder, why is that? Undoubtedly, there are countless reasons why men claim they are unable to stay monogamous (having a relationship with only one partner); an unfulfilled sex life, stress at work or temporarily clouded judgment. These types of excuses are infinite, but in the end, they are still just excuses. What is this beast that needs to be, and far too often is, unleashed? An underlying reason for why men cheat may be found by looking to our earliest of ancestors and their very biological make-up. The field of evolutionary psychology provides an explanation to why men (more often than women) cheat.

What is evolutionary psychology?

Evolutionary psychology is a fascinating field of study. It examines many similar aspects as psychology does, but from an evolutionary perspective. Wikipedia notes, "modern evolutionary psychologists argue that much of human behavior is generated by psychological adaptations that evolved to solve recurrent problems in human ancestral environments." The idea being that, similar to our physical traits, our brains also evolved and adapted to a much different time. A time when our early ancestors roamed the earth in small groups in search of food. 

For example, do you ever wonder why, all across the world, humans are afraid of snakes and spiders more so than cars? When in reality, the latter kills far more humans annually than the former combined. For our early ancestors, it would have been advantageous to develop a fear of snakes and spiders, which were a serious threat to survival at that time. In other words, the individuals who adapted this fear of snakes and spiders increased their chance of survival and thus passed their genes on to future generations (along with a brain module for fearing snakes and spiders).

In the same way, we can look at our early ancestors to provide an answer to the question of why men cheat.


If spreading your genes was an Olympic sport, Mulai Ismail, the last Sharifian Emperor of Morocco, would be a gold medalist. He is noted to have fathered 867 children from a harem of over 500 women... what a player. Dad, is that you?

The game of survival and reproduction

In evolutionary theory, the most important thing in life is survival and reproducing offspring. In this sense, it would have been most beneficial for our early ancestral males to move from one female to the next, inseminating and impregnating as many as possible. The idea being that the more offspring a male has, the better chance he has in securing that his genetic make-up will live on. Just as fearing snakes and spiders was proven advantageous to survival, so too has the desire for men wanting to sleep with as many females as possible. In the game of sheer survival and perpetuating one's genes, the more offspring a male has, the better.

Why do men cheat more than women?

Obviously, men are not alone in the game of evolution. Females want to perpetuate their genes too, so why then are men are more likely to cheat than women? The parental investment theory explains this difference in more detail. For women, attempting to have as many children as possible requires a great amount of effort (think nine months of pregnancy). For males, this is not an issue. Technically, there wouldn't be a strong desire for men to invest resources in a child, aside from emotional obligations. For one, unlike women, the male can never be 100% sure that the child is actually theirs (really…who knows about the milkman)? Secondly, since reproduction is key to survival, his time and money could be better spent seeking out more women to mate with, thus perpetuating his genes further.

The fact that women are capable of conceiving a child once a month, followed by nine months of pregnancy, is reason enough that they aren't sleeping around like their male counterpart might do. 

"Are lousy husbands born that way?"

In conclusion

I don't mean to sound crude and primitive here but... well okay, I do. But by studying our early ancestors, we can start to understand why us modern humans behave the way we do. From why we're afraid of snakes and spiders, why we love drugs, why we believe in God, and even why men are prone to cheat, all of these questions can be answered with evolutionary psychology. While it's true that the male brain may have evolved to prefer sleeping around, in order for today's society to function, men must learn to calm these biological urges and return home to their wives each night.


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