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What Is Cheating? University of Michigan Study Looks At How People Define Infidelity

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What behaviors constitute cheating?

A recent University of Michigan study begins to answer that very question. The study, entitled "Was That Cheating? Perceptions Vary by Sex, Attachment Anxiety, and Behavior," and published in the journal Evolutionary Psychology, was based on a survey given to 456 students in an introductory psychology course at two public universities in the Midwest. They were asked to look at 27 different behaviors and rate them on a scale of 0 to 100 based on the extent to which they believed the action would be considered cheating in a long-term relationship -- 0 being equated with not cheating at all and 100 being full-fledged infidelity.

Not surprisingly, sexual intercourse was given an average of 97.7 on the scale, and oral sex followed closely behind with 96.8. Below, some other interesting findings:

  • Kissing on the lips: 88.7
  • E-mailing pictures of themselves naked: 88.2
  • Texting erotic messages: 82.6
  • Sleeping in the same bed: 68.4
  • Holding hands: 63.2
  • Forming a deep emotional bond: 52.4
  • Sitting in lap: 52.2
  • Going out to dinner: 41.4
  • Sharing secrets: 36.5
  • Hugging for more than 10 seconds: 34.5

Researchers also looked at how the person's level of relationship insecurity factored into how they viewed certain cheating behaviors. Those who were not secure in their relationships, also known as attachment anxious, tended to consider social behaviors more indicative of cheating. Those who were trying to avoid a committed relationship, known as attachment avoidant, tended to rate sexual and erotic behaviors as being less indicative of infidelity.

Click through the slides below to test your knowledge of other cheating findings.

Cheating Survey Trivia
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