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Cheating Men: Weak-Willed or Equipped with a Strong Sex Drive?

A new study looks at why men chase women who are clearly “off limits.”

When it comes to being tempted by the opposite sex, men are more likely than women to give in. Until now, though, science has had little to say about why men behave so badly—do we have no self-control when it comes to women, or are we just endowed with overactive sex drives?

In a new study published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Texas researchers looked at how willpower and sexual impulses control the way men and women act when attracted to members of the opposite sex.

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In the first part of the study, researchers asked 218 men and women to recall a time when they were attracted to someone who was “off limits”—a bad match (like sexting your boss’s daughter); someone who’s already in a relationship; or the big one, someone who isn’t your partner.

When confronted with this situation, men were more likely than women to act on their sexual desires. It was the strength of these impulses that determined whether they’d cross the line. As expected, self-control weakened these urges.

In the second experiment, 600 men and women were asked to accept or reject potential partners based on photos of the opposite sex. The catch was that they were supposed to follow the computer’s suggestions of “good” or “bad. 

The researchers found that men and women had similar levels of self-control in this fast-paced game.

Men, though, tended to accept desirable women even when the computer told them to give them the boot. Men have plenty of self-control — just as much as women," said study co-author Paul Eastwick in a press release. "However, if men fail to use self-control, their sexual impulses can be quite strong. This is often the situation when cheating occurs.

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