High Infidelity

Young adults can harbor fears of infidelity in their relationships. But, what defines a person’s behavior as emotionally or sexually unfaithful?

Amanda Guitar, a graduate student of psychology, undertook a six-month long research project to answer that question.

Close bonding, constant flirting while in a relationship and doing anything that you’re not willing to tell your partner about are all definitions of infidelity given by students on the New Paltz campus, Guitar said, revealing the multiple perspectives that exist and the opportunity for some thought-provoking research.

Guitar was invited by Professor Glenn Geher, SUNY New Paltz’s director of Evolutionary Studies, to team up with three other college institutions to create a survey to define emotional and sexual infidelity and identify examples of such behaviors among college

Guitar said the goal for the research is to keep the concepts thrown around up-to-date and shed new light on the understanding of infidelity.

Guitar said the exploratory survey used open-ended questions that allowed students to provide personal interpretations for a concrete definition, reflecting the current cultural and generational view of infidelity. The survey asked participants to rate the severity of emotional or sexual infidelity of specific behaviors while in long-term relationships, such as emailing or texting erotic pictures, going shopping together or having sex just once, Guitar said.

Guitar said meeting the quota of 130 respondents to the survey in only one day showed that college students are thinking about infidelity.

Geher said infidelity among college students is common because their current life-stage is focused on mate selection and exploration with possibilities of being in a monogamous relationships.

During this time of finding new relationships and love, Guitar said she believes young adults will benefit from understanding the various views of infidelity the research will hopefully uncover.

Still awaiting the final results from the New Paltz division of surveys, Guitar is eager to see if differences between sexes and sexual orientations are present in the participants’ responses. The inclusion of the “queer population,” which is traditionally excluded from other research, gives this survey a unique perspective, Guitar said.

Daniel J. Kruger, the research affiliate from the University of Michigan, said he has begun to analyze the results from Michigan’s student participants in the shared survey. He said those who were more comfortable with short-term mating tactics, such as one-night stands and casual sex, were more likely to admit committing sexual infidelity, but did not report emotional infidelity.

A second phase of the survey is currently being compiled using the responses provided by the original participants to extend the findings and diminish researcher bias, Guitar said. She and her colleagues will be presenting their results at the sixth annual meeting of the North Eastern Evolutionary Psychology Society at the end of April.

“[Guitar] is an all-star student in all respects,” Geher said. “Her work on the development of this project has been enormous.”

Guitar said she hopes to expand this research of infidelity between mates to include the perspective of friendship, wondering if betrayal and unfaithfulness can also be present in relationships with peers.