So far away from one's partner, yet so close to romantic alternatives: Avoidant attachment, interest in alternatives, and infidelity

C. Nathan DeWall*, Nathaniel M. Lambert, Erica B. Slotter, Richard S. Pond, Timothy Deckman, Eli J. Finkel, Laura B. Luchies, Frank D. Fincham

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

112 Scopus citations

Abstract

Temptation pervades modern social life, including the temptation to engage in infidelity. The present investigation examines one factor that may put individuals at a greater risk of being unfaithful to their partner: dispositional avoidant attachment style. The authors hypothesize that avoidantly attached people may be less resistant to temptations for infidelity due to lower levels of commitment in romantic relationships. This hypothesis was confirmed in 8 studies. People with high, vs. low, levels of dispositional avoidant attachment had more permissive attitudes toward infidelity (Study 1), showed attentional bias toward attractive alternative partners (Study 2), expressed greater daily interest in meeting alternatives to their current relationship partner (Study 5), perceived alternatives to their current relationship partner more positively (Study 6), and engaged in more infidelity over time (Studies 3, 4, 7, and 8). This effect was mediated by lower levels of commitment (Studies 5-8). Thus, avoidant attachment predicted a broad spectrum of responses indicative of interest in alternatives and propensity to engage in infidelity, which were mediated by low levels of commitment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1302-1316
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Volume101
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2011

Keywords

  • Attachment style
  • Avoidance
  • Commitment
  • Infidelity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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