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Psychology and Neuroscience of Cheating

Being betrayed by those we love, value, or witness their infidelity or deception can deeply upset us, as well as turn into a traumatizing situation. A close friend’s turning his back when he needs help is an example of our partner’s act of cheating on a relationship with anyone other than our relationship. What goes through the mind of a cheater, what factors lead him to this behavior? Let’s look closely at the psychology of deception and how it occurs in the human brain.

As living beings, there can be positive emotions and experiences in our lives, as well as the opposite of these situations. Just as a chimpanzee can be frustrated on the day he can’t be the leader of the group, a person can share the same feelings about the infidelity of a loved one. For many people and society, infidelity/deception is seen as an unforgivable social ban. Is the act of deception, which society unanimously considers taboo, due to personality traits, environmental factors, or hereditary factors? So, what is the accuracy of the phrase” once cheater always cheater”? Deception is a form of behavior, but it also comes with certain thought patterns. If you’re a cheating person, it can be difficult for you to understand why your partner has severed your trust ties. Even if previous research has shown characteristics associated with infidelity to be high levels of neuroticism (a tendency to worry and be emotionally depressed), low levels of empathy and compatibility, there are many people who have these characteristics and continue their relationships steadily. So personality alone is not a factor that can explain the act of deception. Infidelity can be associated with negative consequences such as depression, domestic violence, divorce. Considering these negative effects may be important for us to understand the reason that drives the individual to this behavior.

Neurochemical Structure Of Cheating

Sinologists note that at any time from 6 months to 2 years after the onset of the relationship, the brain reduces the action of responding, and stimulating chemicals and neurotransmitters such as PEA (phenylethylamine) begin to decrease. Many divorces and breakups can occur during this time, some scientists and psychologists say; if the relationship went in a positive direction, the neurochemical process called love can turn into love and couples can continue on the road, otherwise it is possible to say that “the relationship has lost its excitement” as a result of decreased brain activity and a decrease in the level of neurochemicals and separate individuals.

On the other hand, when prefrontal cortex activity is low, surrendering to impulsive desires without thinking about the consequences can create an imbalance. Brain imaging studies show that people with low activity in the prefrontal cortex are more likely to divorce.

3 Main Reasons For Cheating

1) individual reasons: the phrase “once a cheater always cheats” refers to individual reasons, i.e. qualities that make a person more prone to cheating. When someone is constantly told, “you can’t do it or you can do it,” the person’s mind can become more compatible with doing or not doing it.

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Research has identified several individual risk factors;

a) Gender; men are more likely to cheat than women. Research shows that having more testosterone in men tends to strengthen the desire to have sex. In men, the amount of this hormone can vary, and high levels of testosterone are associated with low empathy and intense sex drive.

b) Personality; those who have less conscience and a less pleasant personality are more likely to cheat than those who have these characteristics.

c) Religiosity; again, deception seems to be less likely in highly religious and conservative individuals in research.

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2) relational reasons: people also tend to cheat due to relationship dynamics. If an individual is not satisfied with their relationship, they may seek other satisfactory partnerships, and as a result, the tendency to deceive may increase. If the needs of both sides, such as empathy, love, sexual hunger, cannot be adequately addressed, the act of searching for these feelings in others can be attempted. Research indicates that for this group, it may not be right to use the phrase “one who cheats once cheats again”, because the relationship that already exists is not enough and good for both sides. In short, it has been noted that relationships characterized by dissatisfaction in relationships, unsatisfactory sex, and high conflict are at higher risk for infidelity.

3) situational reasons: an individual may not have a personality that is prone to cheating and may be in a completely happy relationship, but a number of things about their environment may put them at risk of cheating. Some situations may be more attractive than others, for example, when the sex ratio is unbalanced (there are too many women or men in work or any environment), the possibility of people experiencing infidelity may increase in places where attractive people are present. Finally, people living in urban areas, as opposed to rural and less populated areas, are at greater risk. People in metropolitan areas can often have a relaxed attitude to extramarital sex. Having more people in cities creates an environment of high anonymity. In this case, there may be high potential cheating.

Reasons underlying cheating behavior

  • Avoiding conflicts caused by problems that exist in the relationship,
  • Partners in the relationship do not care about each other, do not listen, do not support
  • Increase problems instead of solving problems in the relationship
  • Don’t give up hope of a relationship; in some cases, a person realizes that there is nothing left of the relationship. Now they have given up, but for social reasons (material, children, lifestyle) they may not be able to end the relationship.

In such cases, deception may occur.

How Can You Protect Your Relationship From Infidelity?

Talk to your partner about the boundaries of your relationship; elements that can be considered cheating in the relationship can vary from person to person. Although most people agree that sexual intercourse with someone other than their partner is cheating, going out to lunch with a co-worker can be perceived as cheating. Talking/discussing all these boundaries with your partner is important for the health of your relationship.

It’s important to keep the dynamic of your relationship alive and high. It is important for both sides to share their joys, sorrows with each other, to help, not to keep secrets, to ask what was bored of their life on that day for the relationship to follow a positive course. In addition, keeping sex life alive and healthy is one of the key points in togetherness.

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Understanding why cheating occurs and what it means is important both for individuals who choose to end their relationship and for those who want to stay together and rebuild.

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