Once a cheater always a cheater?

Is there something about a person that makes him/her cheat no matter the relationship or the circumstance?  According to recent research, there are individual differences that make a person more prone to cheat.

Specifically, cheating has been related to executive control – the ability to curb impulsive behaviors for the benefit of long term goals.  Executive control can be measured in a number of ways including the ability to work on multiple tasks simultaneously or to manipulate a large amount of information by memory.  The idea is that more control a person has in his/her working memory, the greater the ability to regulate thoughts and impulses.

People in romantic relationships with less executive control stated that they had more difficulty staying faithful to their partner. They also flirted more with attractive strangers and were more likely to want to to meet an attractive stranger in person.

For some, cheating can be a compulsion – an inability to resist an opportunity to be with someone else no matter the consequences.  If you have a hard time resisting temptation, here are a few tips:

  1. Don’t make decisions when you’re tired or stressed. Since cognitive ability is important in impulse regulation, good sleep and relaxation can make for better decisions.  Research shows that infidelity occurs more in times of psychologically distress.
  2. Remember the long-term goal – research shows that reminding people of love reduces feelings of attraction to others.

Understanding how people cheat may help increase behaviors to prevent cheating.  For more information, here are a few similar articles from eHarmony Labs that you might enjoy:

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