In Them Genes: Are You Genetically A Cheater?
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In Them Genes: Are You Genetically A Cheater?

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Lakshmi Devan
3 min read

In Them Genes: Are You Genetically A Cheater?

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Does your DNA spell C-H-E-A-T-E-R ?

While, it seems that infidelity and polygamy is sternly objurgated by a majority of the population, at least 21 per cent of married men, and 10-15 per cent of married women in America are said to cheat on their spouses every year. Ah, but it is the United States after all, you’d say. They’re the class of uber-liberal hedonists who would digest marital indiscretions with a nonchalant shrug and some soda. A survey conducted in 2014 revealed that 76 per cent of Indian women and 61 per cent of Indian men don't consider infidelity a sin. What do you have to say about that? To be honest, with all the breakthroughs happening in evolution and genetics, you’d be surprised to know that it is possible that you were born to cheat. I’m not saying it’s not your fault, but maybe some part of you just could not help it. A Finnish study conducted in 2014, involving 7,378 twins and siblings, between ages of 18 and 49, revealed the possible genetic propellant behind cheating – a variation in the vasopressin receptor gene. Let’s get some facts straight.

  • Understanding how vasopressin is at fault – Vasopressin is a hormone that is secreted in the hypothalamus, and stored in the posterior pituitary gland. It plays an important role in bonding, social behaviour, and sexual motivation.  And in the same Finnish study involving twins and siblings, a relationship was established between variants of the vasopressin receptor gene ‘AVPR1A’ and infidelity in women, while no such relation was found in men.
  • So many – The extent of this genetic influence on women can be as much as 40 per cent, meaning that in so many cases, the woman was bound to follow instincts and wander. It is a given that such behaviour depends not only on the individual and their genes, but also on the availability of willing partners, circumstantial opportunity, and so on. That makes 40 per cent a whopping amount.
  • Men and infidelity have had a long past – For men, this extra-pair mating has always been explained from an adaptive perspective, i.e., men have an evolutionary inclination to cheat, because it increases the odds of having more offspring, required to take a species forward.
  • Recent studies show some women are genetically predisposed to wander – For women, the evolutionary benefits of such relations are not known, but some studies point towards the fact that women obtain genetic benefits for their offspring (in the form of potentially superior genes that mean better survival) by mating with high-quality extra-pair partners.
  • Miscellaneous favoring factors – Christin Munsch, then a student for doctorate in sociology at Cornell University, studied marital infidelity and came out with bad news for women – while dependence encourages fidelity in women, the opposite is true for men. Both stay-at-home fathers, and husbands who earned significantly more than their better halves, were up to 5 times more likely to philander, than men who contributed equally to the household. But she also continued that general unhappiness could act as a fuel in such cases, and financial equality works best for most couples. Even though at the end of the day, it is about the choices we make despite everything, it is wise to acknowledge that we live our lives on an unfair, uneven genetic playground, where some of us are more tempted (or easily tempted) than others, due to several socio-psychological and genetic reasons; and for some, monogamy could feel like a battle against their own identity!

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