Emotional reactions to infidelity

Cognition and Emotion 14 (5):643-659 (2000)
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Abstract

We sought to identify emotional reactions to a partner's sexual infidelity and emotional infidelity. In a preliminary study, 53 participants nominated emotional reactions to a partner's sexual and emotional infidelity. In a second study, 655 participants rated each emotion for how likely it was to occur following sexual and emotional infidelity. Principal components analysis revealed 15 emotion components, including Hostile/Vengeful, Depressed, and Sexually aroused. We conducted repeated measures analyses of variance on the 15 components, with participant sex as the between-subjects factor and infidelity type as the within-subjects factor. A main effect for sex obtained for 9 components. For example, men scored higher on Homicidal/Suicidal, whereas women scored higher on Undesirable/Insecure. A main effect for infidelity type obtained for 12 components. For example, participants endorsed Nauseated/Repulsed as more likely to follow sexual infidelity and Undesirable/Insecure as more likely to follow emotional infidelity. Discussion addresses limitations of this research, and highlights the need for an integrative theory of emotional reactions to infidelity.

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