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I Can But You Can't: Inconsistencies in Judgments of and Experiences With Infidelity

  • Ashley E. Thompson (a1) and Lucia F. O'Sullivan (a2)

Despite strong prohibition against infidelity and endorsement of exclusivity as a norm, many people report engaging in infidelity. The current study examined this paradox by employing a between-subject design using online surveys with 810 adults to assess actor-observer biases in the degree of permissiveness judging own versus partner's hypothetical behaviour, as well as hypocrisy in judgments of infidelity versus self-reported behaviour. Participants judged their own behaviour more permissively than their partner's, but only for emotional/affectionate and technology/online behaviours (not sexual/explicit or solitary behaviours). Many reported having engaged in behaviours that they judged to be infidelity, especially emotional/affectionate and technology/online infidelity behaviours. Sexual attitudes, age, and religion predicted inconsistencies in judgments of infidelity and self-reported behaviour (hypocrisy). This study has implications for educators and practitioners working with couples to improve communication and establish guidelines for appropriate and inappropriate behaviour.

Corresponding author
ADDRESS FOR CORRESPONDENCE: Ashley E. Thompson, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, Department of Psychology, 800 Algoma Blvd., Oshkosh, Wisconsin 54901, USA. Email:
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