Beyond Touching: Evolutionary Theory and Computer-Mediated Infidelity

  • Jana Hackathorn


Computer-mediation allows sexual relationships to exist despite geographical separation. The current study utilized evolutionary theory as a framework for understanding sex differences in perceptions of cyber-infidelity. A sample of 115 college students (46% male, age 18-42) were asked to rate their response to evidence of cyber-infidelity across four indices: jealously, infidelity, distress, and destructiveness. Based in evolutionary theory, it was hypothesized that female participants, as opposed to males, would be significantly more likely to categorize extra-dyadic computer-mediated behavior as infidelity, would report higher levels of distress and jealousy, and would rate the stimuli as significantly more destructive to the relationship. Findings supported the theoretical perspective but were limited. Although jealousy ratings yielded no significant sex differences, female participants were significantly more likely to characterize the evidence as an act of infidelity, report higher levels of distress in response to these behaviors, and rate these behaviors as more destructive to the intra-dyadic relationship. Consistent with an evolutionary explanation, these findings suggest that females are more likely than males to view extra-dyadic computer-mediated relationships as acts of emotional infidelity. 


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