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Infidelity and number of sexual partners are both under moderate genetic influence and the correlation between these two traits is strong (47%). The resulting genetic correlation between the two traits was .47, so nearly half the genes impacting on infidelity also affect number of sexual partners.

February 18, 2021

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Title Infidelity and number of sexual partners are both under moderate genetic influence and the correlation between these two traits is strong (47%). The resulting genetic correlation between the two traits was .47, so nearly half the genes impacting on infidelity also affect number of sexual partners.
Author LePetitPhagette
Upvotes 95
Comments 16
Date February 18, 2021 11:37 AM UTC (1 year ago)
Subreddit /r/BlackPillScience
Archive Link https://theredarchive.com/r/BlackPillScience/infidelity-and-number-of-sexual-partners-are-both.741781
Original Link https://old.reddit.com/r/BlackPillScience/comments/lmktug/infidelity_and_number_of_sexual_partners_are_both/
Top posts by LePetitPhagette

[–]Digedag 37 points38 points  (3 children) | Copy Link

Women participating in the survey were also asked to indicate how strongly they approved or disapproved in principle of infidelity by either sex. Two in five women (41%) considered it to be ‘always wrong’.


[–]thewilloftheuniverse 17 points18 points  (2 children) | Copy Link

The takeaway here is that 3 out of 5 women don't consider it "always wrong"

That's oof.

[–]great_waldini 5 points6 points  (1 child) | Copy Link

Not exactly the case actually.


Infidelity was classified as a dichotomous trait on the basis of a subject’s response to the question ‘Whilst married or living with a partner in a sexual relation- ship, have you ever had sex with someone other than your husband or partner?’ Subjects were also asked with how many different people altogether they had had sexual intercourse (including both male and female partners), resulting in a continuous variable. Attitudes towards infidelity were measured with the question, ‘What is your general opinion of a married person having sexual relations with someone other than his/her partner?’ Responses ranged from 1 (always wrong) to 5 (not at all wrong). However, because the distribution of the trait was clearly bimodal (with few respondents in categories 3, 4 or 5), this trait was subsequently dichotomized into those who considered infidelity to be always wrong (1), and those who did not hold this view (2–5). Twins were also asked whether they had ever been divorced or permanently separated, generating a dichotomous variable to be used as a confounder in the analyses.”

So it sounds like the vast majority of responses were 1s and 2s, a 2 still something presumably along the lines of “Infidelity is generally wrong” rather than “always wrong.”

What’s more discouraging about the study is the methodology employed, and there’s really no way around doing it as such though they could have made the study inclusive to a few extra variables and ended up with something much more robust (though I suspect it would have undermined p). There amount of sampling bias involved in studying a social taboo is bound to compromise results beyond the ability to take them seriously, IMHO.

[–][deleted] 3 points4 points  (0 children) | Copy Link


[–]LePetitPhagette[S] 6 points7 points  (0 children) | Copy Link

For women btw.

Cherkas, L. F., Oelsner, E. C., Mak, Y. T., Valdes, A., & Spector, T. D. (2004). Genetic influences on female infidelity and number of sexual partners in humans: a linkage and association study of the role of the vasopressin receptor gene (AVPR1A). Twin research : the official journal of the International Society for Twin Studies, 7(6), 649–658. https://doi.org/10.1375/1369052042663922

[–]great_waldini 2 points3 points  (4 children) | Copy Link

First of all, here’s a link to the full Pdf.

Second of all, I’m highly skeptical about the validity of this study. Aside from the fatal exposure to sampling bias involved in studying a social taboo, it’s more-so the deliberate neglect of certain obviously valuable additional data points that raise the biggest red flags to me. Their entire approach seems geared towards arriving at a certain conclusion (which they can pat themselves on the back as having achieved) to produce a study that gets a lot of attention with a controversial summary, like the snippet used for this post here. Yes, clickbait exists in academia as much as in popsci as much as in tabloids. More attention drawn to your lab = more free exposure = more grant money to do further research.

An elementary understanding of genetics makes obvious the fact that if there’s a link to be had here, it’s not going to be a direct link. Rather, the link will involves a whole host of genetic variables (dozens or hundreds) that ultimately determine the relative probability that someone will commit adultery. Some of which are much more easily attained than others.

For starters, some easily attainable additional metrics could have included: A Big 5 personality evaluation; Evaluation of self esteem; questionnaire on childhood family life (“were your parents together or divorced? What was their relationship like? Was there known to be infidelity on behalf of either or both parents? How were you treated as a child?”); etc. These should all be of course analyzed for correlation with age of the twins respondent. Obviously, people change as they get older and younger respondents will presumably be more insecure, more freshly informed by adolescent experiences, etc.

Further, and this could be done also within a thoughtfully designed written questionnaire, would be an evaluation - in addition to self reported number of sexual partners (which, that obviously is going to be incredibly unreliable) - regarding the relative sexual interests / intensity of desire of each participant - aka ‘libido’. This would be harder for a participant to fudge completely the way they can the number of partners. I know there’s standardized psych evaluation tools out there for this. I’m talking questions like “how often do you think about sex? How much of a distraction is it? Ideally, if your partner was able and willing, how often would you like to have sex?” With questions like this, a respondent could try to sway their answers one way or another due to whatever mental hang ups they have going on, but they still wouldn’t know how the “average” person would be expected to respond. This way you could calculate a gradient of correlations across all respondents.

Lastly, for those that had had an affair and admitted to it, why not ask like “How long had you been together? We’re you generally satisfied by your partner? When in the relationship did this happen? How many times? We’re you shitfaced drunk one night a month after meeting the significant other and having a fight, or was your affair premeditated and carefully hidden for years?”

These things make a big difference. Obviously.

A little more challenging to do, but certainly worth the effort considering - well because when doing research the goal is learn something useful - would be to have blood samples submitted by each respondent to get a direct, empirical hormone assay panel. No brainer. Not terribly expensive, a little bit of effort required for logistics, but this would make the genetic data actually useful. In more ways than one.

Anyways, look do I think genes have a causal role in the probability of someone to be unfaithful? Fucking absolutely. I’d bet my life on it. It’s a no brainer. But did this study teach us literally anything useful? No. I don’t recognize any of their data points as being meaningful in any sort of interesting way. The whole thing is just underweight and full of questionable omissions (like my examples above) that I’m sure would have rendered p statistically insignificant.

Would these results replicate if the study was rerun? Probably. But we’d still not have learned anything at all.

[–]LePetitPhagette[S] 1 point2 points  (3 children) | Copy Link

If there’s an open peer review, you should participate. Or you can just referee this in a scholarly peer review, assuming you’re an expert in this field with the right credentials. If similar criticisms already exist, you can link them here.

[–]great_waldini 0 points1 point  (2 children) | Copy Link

Now that you mentioned it I checked - from Google scholar’s 114 listed citations of this paper, none seem to be about directly attacking the methodology, but there’s plenty of meta studies having to do with psycho-social characteristics and how that existing research lines up (or doesnt) with genetic research about the same topic.

That said, when I clicked the Cambridge link I noted it had a publication date of 2012. Upon this quick look at the citations, I realized it was published online in 2012. The paper originally came out in 2004 though, when a paper like this still would have been relatively normal as a consensus of genetics researchers were still under the naive impression at that time that specific traits could be tied to a specific narrow band of genes. It was really in the next ten years that the complexity of genetics came to be more broadly appreciated with several breakthrough understandings in gene expression humbled the scientific community into rethinking their confidence in the contemporary framework for what genes are and how we might expect them to behave and interact. So it makes sense that there’s not much directly attacking this. It was early. If this was published in the last five years, the authors would have been publicly skewered. Then again, it wouldn’t have been published in the last five year’s because they’d never get this proposal past their ERC.

[–]LePetitPhagette[S] 0 points1 point  (1 child) | Copy Link

When it was republished online, there was ample opportunity. Peer-review isn’t as adversarial a process as you imply it to be. As to whether this ignores polygenic attributes, I think neither of us could say.

[–]great_waldini 1 point2 points  (0 children) | Copy Link

I think you might mistake my colorful and casual language here on Reddit for misunderstanding the peer review process. I don’t think any journal editor would publish criticism as frank and crass as what I would spit out on a Reddit comment with the goal of communicating the crux with as little effort as possible. However, peer review is absolutely quite adversarial in more... civil way. I suspect you know this and we’re likely in more agreement than we’re realizing here.

Still, that said, I don’t think any researcher would waste the time writing a formal retort to this paper for publication 8 years after it debuted - or even the same year. There’s something like 140,000 scholastic journals actively publishing in the world, and a postdoc eyeing tenure doesn’t get there by spending several days on a distraction like replying to this paper. There were probably 100 other studies in 2004 dealing with genetics of twins in some regard or another whos methodology was just as flawed. This also very well could have been a doctoral paper that a PhD candidate prepared for defense so they could graduate, and had very limited resources to complete the study and therefor made compromises.

We can, however, say this ignores polygenic attributes though. See the subsection “Statistical Analysis of Twin Data and Genetic Modeling”

Edit: not to mention they weren’t even using sequenced genomes or anything close to it, but rather some sort of genotyping. And then their analysis of that genotyping was done using models literally from 1992

[–]Carkudo 0 points1 point  (3 children) | Copy Link

under moderate genetic influence

What does this mean?

[–]LePetitPhagette[S] 2 points3 points  (2 children) | Copy Link

Genes play a significant role but not the only role. The environment exerts its own influence on the likelihood of infidelity.

[–]Carkudo 0 points1 point  (1 child) | Copy Link

As in the presence\expression of certain genes (sorry, I don't know how genetics work in this context) predicts the number of sexual partners and likelihood of infidelity?

[–]LePetitPhagette[S] 1 point2 points  (0 children) | Copy Link

To an extent, yes. But if you lived in an ultra-repressive society that severely sanctioned pre-marital sex and extra-marital, that didn’t value privacy and kept you under constant monitor, odds were the levels of both would be little to nil, irrespective of genetic makeup. Levels of promiscuity and infidelity can be extremely curtailed depending on your environment.

But even in unfree societies, a strong genetic predisposition towards promiscuity/infidelity can prevail in accomplishing those things. In a lot of papers the two behaviors are so interrelated that they’re treated as one thing and used interchangeably.

[–]recessed_pepe 0 points1 point  (1 child) | Copy Link

Wtf so the sexual revolution didn't change behavior so much as allow the genes to express themselves openly?

[–]Odd-Luck7658 0 points1 point  (0 children) | Copy Link

Infidelity and number of sexual partners are both under moderate genetic influence and the correlation between these two traits is strong (47%). The resulting genetic correlation between the two traits was .47, so nearly half the genes impacting on infidelity also affect number of sexual partners.


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