Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Cheater might drive a beater

Poll tests car brand as infidelity meter

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Scientists have long wondered whether infidelity can be predicted by what's in our genes. But a new survey suggests it may come down to what's in our garage.

In polling 3,600 people seeking or participating in extramarital affairs, Canadian company AshleyMadison.com found cheaters defy the flashy-car stereotype, instead favouring less conspicuous rides. Twenty-one per cent of stray husbands drive Toyotas, followed distantly by Ford (12 per cent) and Chevy (10 per cent). As for wayward wives, 22 per cent own a Honda, followed by Ford (13 per cent) and Toyota (10 per cent).

But if consumer preferences are part of the infidelity puzzle, experts say they're just that: one piece of a Byzantine picture that includes everything from biology to opportunity.

"Everybody is complex," says Kristen Mark, a sex researcher at the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University. "And you're not going to necessarily have somebody that carries all the (infidelity-predictive) characteristics who's a super-cheater. It doesn't work like that."

Rounding out the Top 10 automakers among unfaithful North American men were Honda, BMW, Dodge, Nissan, Jeep, GMC and Mercedes.For women, Chevy, Mercedes, Nissan, Chrysler, Dodge, BMW and Volkswagen were among the most popular. On both lists, luxury brands drew a minimum 2.9 per cent and maximum 6.6 per cent of market share.

Noel Biderman, CEO of AshleyMadison, describes his company as an accidental "sociology experiment on steroids," having provided university researchers with infidelity insights for years.

But when it comes to explaining the commonalities between site members, he can only speculate -- not least when it comes to cheaters favouring Japanese cars. (Within the general U.S. population, 2012 sales as of March show General Motors and Ford as top picks, with Toyota, Chrysler and Honda following).

"Are people predisposed to buying more reliable cars if they're less reliable in their personal lives?" muses Biderman. "We put it to others to argue nature versus nurture."

Indiana University's Mark, an expert on infidelity, has yet to see any peer-reviewed research linking transportation tastes with monkey business. But she confirms that interpersonal and personality traits appear to play a role.

Among the qualities shown to predict infidelity in a monogamous relationship are lack of overall satisfaction with the primary relationship, particularly among women; sexual dissatisfaction, particularly among men; boredom; low levels of commitment; and a peer group in which cheating is overlooked or prevalent.

Also correlated with affairs are personality traits such as being disagreeable, extroverted, highly neurotic and, in the case of men, feeling a sense of powerlessness or social isolation. Nevertheless, none of these things guarantees someone will stray.

"If you're in a really happy relationship, you could have a whole bunch of the characteristics that predict infidelity and still not engage in infidelity," Mark says.

Notably, U.K. company IllicitEncounters.com, which shares rival AshleyMadison's mandate in adultery matchmaking, found the luxury-car cliché held true, with one in five members reportedly driving BMWs and the rest trending toward Audi, Mercedes, Jaguar and Land Rover.

Site spokeswoman Rosie Freeman-Jones connects the dots, noting that top-tier cars require wealth, wealth is often acquired through risk-taking, and risk-takers are more prone to cheating.

Canada's Biderman, however, is skeptical of the numbers.

"Affluence doesn't equal adultery," he says, arguing infidelity is a function of discord at home meeting opportunity away from it.

"People who do a lot of business travel and have the resources to have someone on the side will often have affairs. But make no mistake about it, affairs cross every socioeconomic class, both genders, every ethnicity. There really is nobody who's immune."

 

-- Postmedia News

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 21, 2012 A31

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