The Connection Between Infidelity and Power Seekers

Every year, many influential people lose their reputations and jobs because of getting involved in extramarital relationships. Infidelity has a devastating influence on a relationship. In fact, it is the most common reason for divorce. A recent study in the Netherlands examined the link between power and infidelity in a relationship. This study also compared infidelity in men with that in women. The study found that “elevated power is positively associated with infidelity because power increases confidence in the ability to attract partners.” These findings were similar for both men and women.

In the last five years, several powerful people including John Ensign, John Edwards, Paul Wolfowitz, Tim Mahoney, Eliot Spitzer, Mark Souder and Don Sherwood, were found to be involved in extramarital affairs. Such sexual scandals are becoming common in the rich and influential section of the society. There has been no systematic study conducted so far to understand the cause of increased infidelity in powerful people. Therefore, this study was aimed at investigating whether people who have high power find it difficult to remain faithful to their partners, compared to those who have less power. In the present study, infidelity, as well as the intention behind it, was assessed in several working professionals of varying power levels, ranging from junior employees to CEOs.

* The study included 1,275 readers of a Dutch magazine, “Intermediair”, as participants. This magazine is targeted at professionals.
* Participants were sent questionnaires via email. The first question was regarding power of the participant at his/her working place. Using direct questions, the participants’ intentions behind getting involved in extramarital relations and instances of past infidelity were assessed.
* Participants were also asked about the factors that encourage infidelity, such as increase in confidence to attract a person of the opposite sex due to increased power, increased distance from their current partners due to commitments required in powerful positions at the workplace, and less sensitivity to risks involved in such affairs.
* At the end, parameters such as age, sex and educational status of participants were recorded.

* Of the 1,275 participants, 26 percent admitted that they were already having an extramarital affair.
* A strong positive association was observed between power and infidelity. It was found that participants who were at powerful positions had stronger intentions of infidelity. Actual involvement in infidelity was also common in those who were more powerful. These observations were the same in women and men. No differences were observed among varying age groups and educational levels.
* Increase in confidence for attracting the opposite sex was the most important mediating factor between power and infidelity. Distance from current partner and insensitivity to effects of infidelity were not significant factors.

Shortcomings/Next steps
In the present study, only the association between infidelity and power has been proved. This does not prove that power is the main reason behind infidelity. Moreover, the data regarding infidelity was self-reported. Further objective measurements of infidelity are necessary so that actual figures of infidelity are available for assessment.

This study proves the positive association between power and infidelity. Increase in power gives increased confidence in approaching an attractive member of the opposite sex, thereby increasing chances of infidelity. The study further shows that women are equally likely to engage in infidelity as men, if they are in high power positions. Yet, there are very few instances of infidelity reported in women. According to the authors of this study, this may be because very few women are at positions of high power. With increase in gender equality and women’s empowerment at workplace, the number of cases of infidelity in women may also rise as women gain more power.

For More Information:
Power Increases Infidelity Among Men and Women
Publication Journal: Psychological Science, July 2011
By Joris Lammers; Janka I. Stoker; Tilburg University, the Netherlands and University of Groningen, Groningen, the Netherlands

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