Know a cheater when you see one? Actually, that might be true. Thanks to a process called thin-slicing (if you read Blink, it’s that), we can tell a surprising amount about each other with other a few minutes of observation.
A study published in Personal Relationships has found that people only need three to five minutes of observing a couple to decide, with better than average accuracy, whether or not they’re cheating. Researchers had fifty-one students answer some questions about their relationship (including whether or not they’ve cheated). Then, they brought their partner into the lab and completed a short drawing tasks where one would be blindfolded and the other told them what to draw.
During this task, they were observed by six coders who had three criteria to evaluate: was the study participant (i.e., the member of the couple who actually answered the study questions) the sort of person who would show romantic interest in another person; was the study participant the sort of person who would flirt or make advances towards another person; and was the study participant the sort of person who has cheated on his partner.
The coder’s opinions was correlated with the actual responses from the study participants, and they found a moderate correlation. Translation: the coders had a pretty good, but not perfect, chance of spotting a cheater. Why? Well, according to the researchers, “Many people are interested in forming meaningful long-term romantic relationships and our research indicates that people may be internally programmed to identify inclinations that could be devastating to their relationship.”
In other words, we’re good at spotting cheaters because we need to be able to. Remember that the next time you’re tempted to stray . . . or have a sneaking suspicion about someone else.
Photo courtesy of Dragunsk.