Temptation: How Men and Women Differ

After bumping into an attractive alternative, women tend to be even more committed to bolstering their present relationship with the love of their life. But men are likely to view their girlfriend in a more negative light following an unintended, though likely not unwelcome, rendezvous with temptation.

Fortunately, a committed man can better withstand the enticement with a little planning ahead, by imagining in advance how to resist the temptation of another woman.

Psychologist John Lydon of McGill University in Montreal offers these results in a study from the July issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

One of Lydon's seven experiments on the temptation topic found that, after meeting an attractive and available man, women were 18 percent more likely to forgive their "romantic partner" who hypothetically had either revealed an embarrassing trait or lied about why he recently cancelled a date. Yet after meeting an attractive and available woman, men were 12 percent less likely to forgive their girlfriend's comparable gaffe.

Men may seem unable to resist that extra helping of estrogen, possibly because they interpret their interactions with women differently than their female counterparts, Lydon said. But if men adopted the feminine view of temptation, they could develop this more defensive mindset.

"We think that if men believed an attractive, available woman was a threat to their relationship, they might try to protect that relationship," Lydon said.

Using virtual reality scenarios in another experiment, the researchers discovered that male commitment may not solve everything. But if men imagine a buttoned-down reaction the next time they are confronted with an attractive "other" woman, they will be better prepared to overcome future temptations — assuming that's what they truly desire.

"Even if a man is committed to his relationship," Lydon says, "he may still need to formulate strategies to protect his relationship by avoiding that available, attractive woman."

  • The Sex Quiz: Myths, Taboos, and Bizarre Facts