Science of Infidelity: Psychological and Behavioural Insights


Infidelity, a common issue in romantic relationships, has profound emotional and psychological consequences. Recent studies provide a scientific understanding of the reactions, consequences, and predictors of infidelity.

Science-backed Aspects of Partner Infidelity

  1. Emotional Reactions to Infidelity: Emotional reactions vary significantly between sexual and emotional infidelity. Research indicates a range of emotions, including hostility, depression, and even physical repulsion, with distinct differences observed between genders (Shackelford, LeBlanc, & Drass, 2000).
  2. Impact on Mental and Physical Health: Infidelity can lead to severe mental health issues and health-compromising behaviours, influenced significantly by how the non-involved partner perceives the betrayal (Shrout & Weigel, 2018).
  3. Behavioural and Psychological Cues: Certain behaviours and psychological cues can signal infidelity in the relationship. Acts such as exaggerated affection or relationship dissatisfaction are linked to sexual and emotional infidelity, respectively (Shackelford & Buss, 1997).
  4. Gender Differences in Response to Infidelity: Men and women differ significantly in how they respond to infidelity. Men are more likely to end relationships following sexual infidelity, whereas women are more impacted by emotional infidelity (Shackelford, Buss, & Bennett, 2002).
  5. Predictors of Infidelity: Factors such as personality traits and relationship satisfaction can predict infidelity’s likelihood (test for infidelity’s likelihood is here). Lower conscientiousness and higher narcissism are associated with a higher susceptibility to infidelity (Buss & Shackelford, 1997).


The study of infidelity reveals complex emotional, psychological, and behavioural dimensions. Understanding these aspects can aid individuals and therapists in navigating the challenges posed by infidelity in relationships.