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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.

Fact:

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.

What do you think? Leave a comment below

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    • jdaviswrites profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeff Davis 

      9 months ago from California

      I agree. It's just my theory. However, intercourse with more women would have meant better chance of survival.

    • profile image

      tulip 

      4 years ago

      If 'the most important thing in life is survival' why/how would the prehistoric men who cheated survived? As prior to seeing their heirs they would be beaten up by their ex-women severely, which would cause possible death/severe damage for life ;) No, I think this is all b-s theory to justify something unacceptable. And you guys better watch out in order to survive, no kidding!! :)

    • jdaviswrites profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeff Davis 

      5 years ago from California

      Thanks to both of you! Great books indeed and valid points from both sides.

    • jojo29 profile image

      Jane Boucheirre 

      6 years ago from CA

      This is an interesting hub. But I think---both sexes do. Men and women are the same. Men don't cheat if there's no women counterparts.

    • Wesley Meacham profile image

      Wesley Meacham 

      6 years ago from Wuhan, China

      This is an intersting hub. I basically agree with much of what you say. I'd like to add that two books (one of which is listed in your Amazon capsul) which largely support your statements here. The Red Queen is a book on current evelutionary theory and how sexuality among other things has changed over time to increase survivability. Another book, Sperm Wars is more specific to sexual evelution and biology. Both of these books suggest that while men may cheat more often, women do cheat and there is even a predictable pattern to when and with whom women are likely to cheat. There will always be exceptions of course but women are more likely to cheat after the third year of marriage.

      Interesting discussion. Voting up and sharing.

    • jdaviswrites profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeff Davis 

      7 years ago from California

      Tusitala Tom - Thanks bud. Yeah that's very true. I'm no expert in this field, but I think that's an easy one.

      In an evolutionary sense, men look for a potential mate that will rear a child. While women look for healthy, rich in resources and fertile males. They have much higher standards. But for good reason. There is a lot more at stake, 9 months of pregnancy and the mental/physical demand involved, for example. Men on the other hand, could really care less (there's always the chance the child is not theirs too). Without a doubt, women cast a bigger net in order to sift through potential mates. Make sense? That's what I think. Thanks for commenting

    • Tusitala Tom profile image

      Tom Ware 

      7 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      An excellent Hub. In response, I'd ike to mention a strange quirk in women. Women dress up to be as attractive as they can be to men in general, yet feel almost insulted when someone who is not attractive to them responds to that attraction. They cast a 'wide net' so to speak but really only want particular fish. One's that are attractive to them; good 'mating material.' Maybe that's a Evolutionay Psychology aspect that needs to be explored. Wadja think?

    • jdaviswrites profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeff Davis 

      8 years ago from California

      jambo87 thanks for reading. i'm glad you enjoyed.

    • profile image

      jambo87 

      8 years ago

      I truly believe that modern humans are battling instincts that were developed along with the first hominids (c. 100 million years ago), almost on a daily basis. Violence, sexual proliferation, etc. may have been very necessary back then, but society has progress beyond that and now we use our modern version of reason to battle instincts. We all have that carnal nature buried within us, some people (cheaters) let it control them, which is pitiful because our moral integrity should be strong enough to resist it. But then again, hedonism is very popular these days (or always has been).

      Very good hub!

    • jdaviswrites profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeff Davis 

      8 years ago from California

      thanks and thanks again matt

    • matt35 profile image

      matt35 

      8 years ago

      Nice post Jeff and congrats on the FTB blog contest.

    • jdaviswrites profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeff Davis 

      8 years ago from California

      dawnM - I will have to check out your hub in a bit. I have to note, it's not necessarily my view...it's the view of an evolutionary psychologists, and how certain brain modules evolved at a time when cheating would have been an advantageous to males. Obviously, lots has changed since we lived in caves and foraged for food. I can agree with you on the basic idea of your article. Maybe there is an explanation for it that evolutionary psychology would explain? Ie: tendency for women to bond together and protect one another against a male who cheats and thus doesn't contribute resources. I'll have to think about this and get back to you. I haven't had any coffee yet. Thanks for the comment.

    • dawnM profile image

      Dawn Michael 

      8 years ago from THOUSAND OAKS

      I loved your take on the men cheating, I wrote a similar article but from a woman’s perspective so it was interesting seeing from a man’s view. One of the reasons that I think that we may feel that men cheat more than a woman is because I think that women are better at not getting caught than a man. Not to say that this is a good thing cheating because it is not but in my article why women cheat the first line was that most of the men that they cheat with will not blow their cover as with men and women woman will blow a man’s cover!!! Food for thought

    • jdaviswrites profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeff Davis 

      8 years ago from California

      Don - Thanks for the comment. You have exactly the right idea about evolutionary psych, and it is interesting. Really though, I don't know enough to answer why anyone would hold Raiders season tickets...

      LeanMan - I agree with you, and as I said, monogamy goes against our basic human insticts and would have only arose with the development of society to help it function smoother. I also agree with you about women being just as likely to cheat...especially current day. The modern women is much more self sufficient and needs far less resources from a male, if any at all. Thus the liklihood of them cheating could be equal to that of a male. But as far as evolutionary psych is concerned, the male brain has evolved to act on the cnance to mate as much as possible (which we're capable of)...more so than a female would. thanks for the comment.

    • LeanMan profile image

      Tony 

      8 years ago from At the Gemba

      Monogamy is something that has been "suggested" for the survival of the tribe, for a tribe to work together you have to remove internal quarrels, hence rules with regards to who can do what to who and we end up with a bunch of "commandments" and other religious rules by which to run our society, many of which go counter to our instincts.

      We differ from many other animals through our ability to reason and make choices, one choice is to ignore our instincts and not sleep with our neighbors wife and thus promote our "civilization".. Maybe those that give in to these desires are closer to the animal that we once were..

      As to "Men", from experience I would say that women are just as likely to cheat if not more so, as a younger fitter version of myself liked to experiment quite regularly and found married women very friendly if given the right amount of attention and a flash of six pack from a six feet plus martial artist with a good sense of humor!(But I have grown up now.. honest!)

    • Don Simkovich profile image

      Don Simkovich 

      8 years ago from Pasadena, CA

      This is well written and provides good information to understand this part of human behavior -- or male-female behavior and differences. It also shows that men and women are not the same and we react differently while we must learn to be compatible with each other. I've not heard the term "evolutionary psychology" but it makes sense. I also think you make a fascinating observation related to why people are more afraid of spiders than cars. So you're saying - or the point of the article - that a man's desire to be sexual outside of marriage has its origins in ancient survival? I wonder, however, why you didn't trace the brain evolution of an Oakland Raider season ticket holder? Just kidding! Well-written Hub that is thought provoking.

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