Character flaws come in many forms, and sometimes it is a combination. The latter is the case when a new study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, which determined that those who cheat on a partner judge other cheaters more harshly. Psychologists attribute this to what is called a “self-serving bias.”
This self-serving behavior also carries over into other parts of the lives of these individuals. For example, they also tend to take full credit for their success and minimize the blame for their failures. This can translate into a higher likelihood of blaming external factors for the betrayal than the victim of the deception in incidences like an affair.
Researchers conducted two studies involving self-serving bias and sexual infidelity. The first documented the behavior, and the second explored whether people with experience as both perpetrators and victims of infidelity would display hypocrisy or compassion and empathy when interviewed about their experiences.
One study featured 325 participants instructed to read the same hypothetical scenario where they were either the perpetrator or the victim. Then they rated the importance of outside circumstances to the cheating behavior. The study found that readers who were unfaithful placed less blame on the perpetrator.
The second study explored hypocrisy based on actual experiences of infidelity. This involved 352 participants who were perpetrators, victims or both. They were then asked about their own experiences with cheating. The study found that those who had been in both categories exhibited what researchers called “sexual hypocrisy” when they discussed instances when they were the perpetrator versus when they were the victim.
What does the study tell us?
The findings zero in on the tendencies of the perpetrators, who will often externalize blame or downplay their responsibility. They also minimize the impact their actions have upon others. This is bad news for couples who hope for reconciliation after infidelity. Partners unable to overcome the self-serving bias will likely be a roadblock for reconciliation. It also serves as a red flag to the victims, who will often find the self-server’s tendencies are unsuitable for a monogamous marriage or relationship.