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Old 03-19-2008, 02:50 PM   #1
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Are We Wired To Cheat On Our Mates?

Nature wants babies?


Are we wired to cheat on our mates?

Biologists say we should not be too surprised by spouses who have affairs

By Mike Celizic
TODAYShow.com contributor
updated 1:07 p.m. ET, Wed., March. 19, 2008

For one species of flatworm that lives in the gills of freshwater fish, monogamy is the rule. But for humans and every other living creature, biologists believe nature prefers that man and beast have multiple sexual partners.

With that in mind, some biologists say we shouldn’t be too surprised when public figures like former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer and others get caught cheating on their mates.

We may just be wired that way.

“Nature wants one thing, and what it wants are babies,” Jeffrey Kluger, TIME magazine’s science editor, told TODAY’s Meredith Vieira on Wednesday. “It also wants lots of them and it wants variety, because the greater the genetic variety, the greater the likelihood that the babies are going to survive to adulthood and do well. So even when we’ve had children, we have some very primal software that keeps telling us, ‘Look around.’ ”

Once upon a time, biologists thought that there were a number of animals — eagles, geese and beavers among them — that remained monogamous throughout their lives. But DNA testing has shown that even the animals that look like the models of fidelity are getting out at night for a little extra on the side. And, according to a report filed by TODAY’s Natalie Morales, the list of officially monogamous creatures is down to one — that freshwater flatworm that physically attaches itself to a mate for life.

“Men will look for women who look like they’re young and fecund,” Kluger added. “And women look for men who look like they’re good providers, which is why rich and powerful men do well.”

Even in human societies, Americans are relatively unique in their expectation of lifelong fidelity, said University of Texas psychologist and author David Buss.

“Historically, most cultures are polygynous, meaning men are legally entitled to take multiple wives, and so mating with many women is very common across cultures and perfectly acceptable in many cultures,” he said from Austin, Texas. “Our culture is somewhat unique in that we have presumptive monogamy or legal monogamy — men are only supposed to have one woman.”

Vieira wondered whether we haven’t evolved beyond our biological impulses, and both men agreed that humans do have the ability to override their genetic and biological programming. And, studies show, most people do, with 65 percent of men and 75 percent of women claiming that they have never cheated on their spouses.

“If you look at marriages, in fact, more than half of them — in America anyway — do remain monogamous,” Buss said. “I think it’s important to keep in mind that although we do have these biological impulses to stray, we also have inhibitions against straying, for example, reputational damage. When people get caught straying, they incur reputational damage, and we are very concerned about our social reputations.”

The conflict between desire and morality was famously defined by former President Jimmy Carter, who told Playboy that he felt “lust” in his heart, and was roundly criticized for admitting even that.

But, Buss said, Carter was making an important point. “It’s a reflection of reality,” he said. “I think it’s also important to keep in mind that both men and women experience lust in their hearts. They feel attractions to others.”

Both scientists agreed that while women do cheat, men are more likely to.

“There are two reasons for that,” Kluger said. “First of all, men simply can breed more. Men biologically can conceive a child every day if they wanted to. So we’re trip-wired for that kind of thing.”

Above the rules?

The way society is structured also adds to a male’s incentive to cheat. “We still live in a patriarchal society, which means men are more commonly in positions of power,” Kluger went on. “Positions of power tend to validate the belief that you’re above the rules. You and I don’t get a motorcade when we go places. We don’t get a flying wedge on the sidewalk. So if you’re entitled to the sidewalk and you’re entitled to the street, why aren’t you entitled to that beautiful woman on your communications staff?”

Buss said that although the urge to cheat is universal, people with certain personality traits are more likely to stray than others.

“Our studies find two in particular,” said Buss in addressing those traits. “One is impulsivity or lack of conscientiousness. But the most important personality characteristic is narcissism. Men who are high on the narcissism personality characteristic are more likely to cheat than men who are lower. They put their own needs and their own urges before those of their families.”

Both agreed that “biology made me do it” isn’t an excuse for infidelity.

“We have to be realistic about our human nature. We have these impulses to stray,” said Buss. “But we also have inhibitions against straying and the ability to choose whether or not we do.”
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Old 03-19-2008, 03:02 PM   #2
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Well this is kind of a no brainer. I do not think humans are naturally monogamous. I believe monogamy is a choice.

That being said, like the article said, "biology made me do it" isn't an excuse.
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Old 03-19-2008, 03:03 PM   #3
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NY Times

March 18, 2008
Basics
In Most Species, Faithfulness Is a Fantasy
By NATALIE ANGIER

You can accuse the disgraced ex-governor Eliot Spitzer of many things in his decision to flout the law by soliciting the services of a pricey prostitute: hypocrisy, egomania, sophomoric impulsiveness and self-indulgence, delusional ineptitude and boneheadedness. But one trait decidedly not on display in Mr. Spitzer’s splashy act of whole-life catabolism was originality.

It’s all been done before, every snickering bit of it, and not just by powerful “risk-taking” alpha men who may or may not be enriched for the hormone testosterone. It’s been done by many other creatures, tens of thousands of other species, by male and female representatives of every taxonomic twig on the great tree of life. Sexual promiscuity is rampant throughout nature, and true faithfulness a fond fantasy. Oh, there are plenty of animals in which males and females team up to raise young, as we do, that form “pair bonds” of impressive endurance and apparent mutual affection, spending hours reaffirming their partnership by snuggling together like prairie voles or singing hooty, doo-wop love songs like gibbons, or dancing goofily like blue-footed boobies.

Yet as biologists have discovered through the application of DNA paternity tests to the offspring of these bonded pairs, social monogamy is very rarely accompanied by sexual, or genetic, monogamy. Assay the kids in a given brood, whether of birds, voles, lesser apes, foxes or any other pair-bonding species, and anywhere from 10 to 70 percent will prove to have been sired by somebody other than the resident male.

As David P. Barash, a professor of psychology at the University of Washington in Seattle, put it with Cole Porter flair: Infants have their infancy; adults, adultery. Dr. Barash, who wrote “The Myth of Monogamy” with his psychiatrist-wife, Judith Eve Lipton, cited a scene from the movie “Heartburn” in which a Nora Ephronesque character complains to her father about her husband’s philanderings and the father quips that if she’d wanted fidelity, she should have married a swan. Fat lot of good that would have done her, Dr. Barash said: we now know that swans can cheat, too. Instead, the heroine might have considered union with Diplozoon paradoxum, a flatworm that lives in gills of freshwater fish. “Males and females meet each other as adolescents, and their bodies literally fuse together, whereupon they remain faithful until death,” Dr. Barash said. “That’s the only species I know of in which there seems to be 100 percent monogamy.” And where the only hearts burned belong to the unlucky host fish.

Even the “oldest profession” that figured so prominently in Mr. Spitzer’s demise is old news. Nonhuman beings have been shown to pay for sex, too. Reporting in the journal Animal Behaviour, researchers from Adam Mickiewicz University and the University of South Bohemia described transactions among great grey shrikes, elegant raptorlike birds with silver capes, white bellies and black tails that, like 90 percent of bird species, form pair bonds to breed. A male shrike provisions his mate with so-called nuptial gifts: rodents, lizards, small birds or large insects that he impales on sticks. But when the male shrike hankers after extracurricular sex, he will offer a would-be mistress an even bigger kebab than the ones he gives to his wife — for the richer the offering, the researchers found, the greater the chance that the female will agree to a fly-by-night fling.

In another recent report from the lubricious annals of Animal Behaviour entitled “Payment for sex in a macaque mating market,” Michael D. Gumert of Hiram College described his two-year study of a group of longtailed macaques that live near the Rimba ecotourist lodge in the Tanjung Puting National Park of Indonesia. Dr. Gumert determined that male macaques pay for sex with that all-important, multipurpose primate currency, grooming. He saw that, whereas females groomed males and other females for social and political reasons — to affirm a friendship or make nice to a dominant — and mothers groomed their young to soothe and clean them, when an adult male spent time picking parasites from an adult female’s hide, he expected compensation in the form of copulation, or at the very least a close genital inspection. About 89 percent of the male-grooming-female episodes observed, Dr. Gumert said in an interview from Singapore, where he is on the faculty of Nanyang Technological University, “were directed toward sexually active females” with whom the males had a chance of mating.

Significantly, males adjust their grooming behavior in a distinctly economic fashion, paying a higher or lower price depending on the availability and quality of the merchandise and competition from other buyers. “What led me to think of grooming as a form of payment was seeing how it changed across different market conditions,” Dr. Gumert said. “When there were fewer females around, the male would groom longer, and when there were lots of females, the grooming times went down.” Males also groomed females of high rank considerably longer than they did low-status females with nary a diamond to their page.

Commonplace though adultery may be, and as avidly as animals engage in it when given the opportunity, nobody seems to approve of it in others, and humans are hardly the only species that will rise up in outrage against wantonness real or perceived. Most female baboons have lost half an ear here, a swatch of pelt there, to the jealous fury of their much larger and toothier mates. Among scarab beetles, males and females generally pair up to start a family, jointly gathering dung and rolling and patting it into the rich brood balls in which the female deposits her fertilized eggs. The male may on occasion try to attract an extra female or two — but he does so at his peril. In one experiment with postmatrimonial scarabs, the female beetle was kept tethered in the vicinity of her mate, who quickly seized the opportunity to pheromonally broadcast for fresh faces. Upon being released from bondage, the female dashed over and knocked the male flat on his back. “She’d roll him right into the ball of dung,” Dr. Barash said, “which seemed altogether appropriate.”

In the case of the territorial red-backed salamander, males and females alike are inclined to zealous partner policing and will punish partners they believe to have strayed: with threat displays, mouth nips and throat bites, and most coldblooded of all, a withdrawal of affection, a refusal to engage. Be warned, you big lounge lizard: it could happen to you.
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Old 03-19-2008, 03:03 PM   #4
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Re: Are We Wired To Cheat On Our Mates?

Quote:
Originally posted by MrsSpringsteen

Are we wired to cheat on our mates?


we are not wired for monogamy.

but we can choose to live monogamously.
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Old 03-19-2008, 03:18 PM   #5
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Re: Re: Are We Wired To Cheat On Our Mates?

Quote:
Originally posted by Irvine511




we are not wired for monogamy.

but we can choose to live monogamously.
I disagree entirely.



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Old 03-19-2008, 03:19 PM   #6
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What makes people choose to be monogamous?
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Old 03-19-2008, 03:20 PM   #7
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Conscience
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Old 03-19-2008, 03:20 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by diamond
Conscience
Not love?
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Old 03-19-2008, 03:27 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by MrsSpringsteen
What makes people choose to be monogamous?


respect.

you could cheat on someone and still love them.

but if you respect them, you treat them how you would like to be treated.
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Old 03-19-2008, 03:27 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally posted by MrsSpringsteen


Not love?
that foremost silly.
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Old 03-19-2008, 03:45 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally posted by Irvine511




respect.

you could cheat on someone and still love them.

but if you respect them, you treat them how you would like to be treated.
Bingo.
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Old 03-19-2008, 03:55 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally posted by diamond

that foremost silly.
Then why was your response "conscience"? Do you mean people have a guilty one if they cheat, or that your moral conscience tells you not to? Should you not cheat out of your love for, and respect for, and commitment to, your partner more than for reasons of guilt and morality?

You can cheat on someone and still love them, so maybe commitment is a better answer than love
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Old 03-19-2008, 04:02 PM   #13
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Re: Re: Re: Are We Wired To Cheat On Our Mates?

Quote:
Originally posted by diamond


I disagree entirely.
If we were wired to be monogamous the divorce rate would be much lower, don't you think?

Why would you answer MrsS' question with 'conscience', if you thought we were wired to be monogamous?
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Old 03-19-2008, 04:13 PM   #14
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"wired" and "conscience", hm.....
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Old 03-19-2008, 05:09 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally posted by MrsSpringsteen


Then why was your response "conscience"? Do you mean people have a guilty one if they cheat, or that your moral conscience tells you not to? Should you not cheat out of your love for, and respect for, and commitment to, your partner more than for reasons of guilt and morality?

You can cheat on someone and still love them, so maybe commitment is a better answer than love
I think that ppl don't decide to cheat overnight, maybe a few that don't love their spouse to begin with.

For the most part it happens in stages.

the first thing to move ppl towards cheating is unreciprocated love
the 2nd lack of commitment from a spouse
third your own conscience.

So that's what I meant, I didn't articulate my points adequately.

dbs
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