Sex Differences in Succumbing to Sexual Temptations: A Function of Impulse or Control? (2013)

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August 22, 2013,
doi:10.1177/0146167213499614

Pers Soc Psychol Bull 0146167213499614

  1. Natasha D. Tidwell1
  2. Paul W. Eastwick2

  1. 1Texas A&M University, College Station, USA

  2. 2The University of Texas at Austin, USA
  1. Natasha D. Tidwell, Texas A&M University, 4235 TAMU, 77843, TX 4235, USA. Email: ndtidwell@gmail.com
  2. Paul W. Eastwick, University of Texas at Austin, 108 E Dean Keeton St., Stop A2702, Austin, TX 78712, USA. Email: eastwick@austin.utexas.edu

Abstract

Men succumb to sexual temptations (e.g., infidelity, mate poaching) more than women. Explanations for this effect vary; some researchers propose that men and women differ in sexual impulse strength, whereas others posit a difference in sexual self-control. These studies are the first to test such underlying mechanisms. In Study 1, participants reported on their impulses and intentional control exertion when they encountered a real-life tempting but forbidden potential partner. Study 2 required participants to perform a reaction-time task in which they accepted/rejected potential partners, and we used process dissociation to separate the effects of impulse and control. In both studies, men succumbed to the sexual temptations more than women, and this sex difference emerged because men experienced stronger impulses, not because they exerted less intentional control. Implications for the integration of evolutionary and self-regulatory perspectives on sex differences are discussed.