It turns out cheating might be genetic — here's what you need to know

cheating couple

  • There is a small amount of research that suggests cheating could be genetic.
  • According to experts, people can absorb behaviors, like cheating, from their caretakers.
  • Just because someone might be more inclined to cheat, that doesn’t mean they will act on it. 

Early research suggests 20% of your personality is hereditary, but most people have never stopped to wonder what’s included in that 20%.

Licensed clinical psychotherapist, Dr. LeslieBeth (LB) Wish said emotions and temperaments have a genetic component, but what about the tendency to be unfaithful? Is cheating genetic or is it a choice?

The answer is complicated. 

Cheating can be ‚absorbed‘ from your parents, siblings, and family 

Wish told INSIDER that cheating can be a maladaptive behavior something you develop as a negative response to feeling unhappy in a relationship but it can also be something you „absorb“ from your parents, older siblings, or other family members and caretakers.

„As a child, you see how your caregivers deal with their anxiety, depression, and unhappiness,“ Wish said. „If your mother overate, or your father cheated on your mother, you see that behavior, you see your parents‘ moods, and you learn without knowing that you are learning about ways to manage feelings.“  

There’s a possible relationship between a particular gene and the inclination to cheat

Gay Couple

Scientists have a hunch that the desire to cheat could be linked back to something called the dopamine receptor DRD4 polymorphism aka the „thrill-seeking“ gene that’s also been called out as the gene responsible for alcoholism and gambling addiction.

In a 2010 study performed by researchers at Binghamton University in New York, it was found that participants who possessed a specific kind of DRD4 gene were more likely to cheat.

For their study, SUNY Doctoral Diversity Fellow and lead investigator, Justin Garcia, recruited 181 young adults. Participants were asked to complete a questionnaire about their sexual behaviors, as well as to submit a DNA sample which would be tested in order to determine the variation of DRD4 in their DNA.

According to the team’s findings published in the journal „PLOS One,“ everyone has DRD4, but the more you have, the more prone you are to thrill-seeking. In other words, you could be more drawn to the temptation of things you probably shouldn’t be, like cheating, for no other reason other than you want to feel the „thrill“ associated with it.

Garcia told ABC News it all goes back to the release of dopamine, aka the happy hormone. Humans are naturally drawn to activities that make them feel pleasure, but according to Garcia, people who possess this certain DRD4 gene require more than the average person.

People with the DRD4 gene need more stimuli to feel satiated,“ Garcia said. „Some say ‚wow,‘ that was a rush after jumping out of a plane. Others ask, ‚When is the plane going back up?'“ 

Even if you’re predisposed to the ‚thrill gene,‘ that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll act on your impulses

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Given the results of the study, it seems that it might be fair to say some cheaters really can’t help themselves. But because there is such a limited supply of scientific evidence to support this claim, experts say you shouldn’t make this assumption. 

Robert Weiss, MSW, author of „Out of the Doghouse,“ told INSIDER that while a small group of people is predisposed to the thrill gene, that doesn’t necessarily mean this group has to act on these sorts of impulses.

„Plenty of people are genetically predisposed toward alcoholism, but only a small percentage become alcoholic because many other factors are in play (environment, self-will, life experience, resiliency to turmoil, etc.),“ Weiss said. „The same is true with a genetic predisposition toward infidelity and promiscuity; other factors are in play. Regardless of our genetics, we maintain free will when it comes to sexual behaviors. We always have a choice.“

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