Science says people who have more power are more likely to cheat on their spouses

Tiger woods 2000Stephen Munday/Getty ImagesTiger Woods was accused of cheating on his wife in 2009.

The research suggests that men are more likely to cheat on their spouses than women

Not only that, they’re also more like to “poach” somebody else’s mate.

But according to a 2011 Dutch study, those behaviours aren’t due to men’s insatiable appetites for flesh, but because they’re more likely to hold powerful positions in the world. 

Tilburg University psychologist Joris Lammers and his team surveyed 1,561 professionals, asking how high up in their organisations they were and their history or interest in cheating.

“Results showed that elevated power is positively associated with infidelity because power increases confidence in the ability to attract partners,” they wrote, adding that the association held for a personal history of cheating and an intention of doing so in the future.

The gender that a person was born into did not predict cheating. It was the station they held in life. 

“The relationship between power and infidelity was the same for women as for men,” the authors wrote. “These findings suggest that the common assumption (and often-found effect) that women are less likely than men to engage in infidelity is, at least partially, a reflection of traditional gender-based differences in power that exist in society.” 

The study adds to a growing wealth of information around how power effects people’s behaviour. Beyond being more likely to cheat on their spouses, people who feel powerful are more likely to commit traffic violations, feel distant from other people, and find their own life story more inspiring than anybody else’s

“As a social psychologist, I believe that the situation is everything and that the situation or instance is often stronger than the individual,” Lammers said in a statement. “As more and more women are in greater positions of power and are considered equal to men, then familiar assumptions about their behaviour may also change.”

Which would be an unexpected fallout of gender equality, to say the least.

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