Researchers at the University of New Brunswick asked 362 heterosexual adults how they had staved off temptations to cheat while in a relationship.
1. ‘Relationship enhancement’
Seventy-five per cent of the study’s respondents, who were aged between 19 and 63, selected ‘relationship enhancement’ as their primary tactic.
This ploy included things like taking their partner on a date, making an extra effort with their appearance around them, or having more sex with them.
2. ‘Proactive avoidance’
The second most-popular was ‘proactive avoidance’, which involved maintaining distance from the temptation.
As well as physically avoiding the temptation, people also avoided getting close in conversation with that person.
3. ‘Derogation of the temptation’
The third and final tactic used by people was ‘derogation of the temptation’, which involved feelings of guilt, and thinking about the tempting person in a negative light.
Participants reported flirting less when they applied the final, ‘derogation of the temptation’ strategy.
But none of the strategies had an effect on the levels of romantic infidelity, sexual infidelity, and whether the relationship survived.
Psychologist Dr Alex Fradera, who was not involved in the research, said the findings show little can be done once feelings of temptation have crept in.
They then discussed interpersonal dilemmas with a potential partner, also participating in the study while being videotaped and their behaviour was rated in terms of responsiveness and caring.
Scientists found when the ‘sexual system was activated’ people showed signs of caring about their potential partner’s well-being – which is a way of signalling their interest in a relationship.
The final study included 50 men and 50 women – half of who watched an erotic non-pornography movie scene while the others watched a neutral video about South American rain forests.
They were then matched with an attractive study insider from the opposite sex and told to complete a verbal reasoning task.
The study insiders pretended to get stuck on the third question and ask participants for help and those who had watched the erotic movie scene proved to be more helpful than those who watched the neutral film.
Co-author Professor Harry Reis, of the University of Rochester, said: ‘Although sexual urges and emotional attachments are distinct feelings, evolutionary and social processes likely have rendered humans particularly prone to becoming romantically attached to partners to whom they are sexually attracted.’
Professor Birnbaum added: ‘Sexual desire may play a causally important role in the development of relationships.
‘It’s the magnetism that holds partners together long enough for an attachment bond to form.’