Adultery – Just Science?

Ngoại tình, phải chăng chỉ là cơ chế tự nhiên?

Pulitzer Prize-winner, Prof. Jared Diamond

Reading Title: The Science of Adultery by Jared Diamond

In this reading, Jared Diamond attempts to account for the reasons why adultery occurs. One theory that scientists use to explain why people seek or avoid adultery is the theory of extramarital sex (EMS). Here comes the concept of game theory whereby the “winners” would be those individuals with the highest number of surviving offspring. What sets the “game” in place would be the difference between the reproductive systems of males and females and this leads two factors that arises from this difference, namely the effort required for reproduction and the risk of either of them being cuckolded. Trong bài viết này Jared Diamond có ý tìm cách lý giải tại sao xảy ra việc ngoại tình (cơ chế sinh học của nó, ND). Một trong những giả thuyết mà các nhà khoa học sử dụng để giải thích tại sao người ta làm hay tránh việc ngoại tình là lý thuyết về tình dục ngoài hôn nhân (EMS, extramarital sex). Ở đây xuất hiện quan niệm trong lý thuyết trò chơi (game theory) qua đó “kẻ chiến thắng” sẽ là những cá nhân có khả năng để lại số hậu duệ nhiều nhất (highest number of surviving offspring). Cái định đặt  cơ chế của trò chơi sẽ là sự khác biệt của hai hệ thống sinh sản của người đàn bà và của người đàn ông đã tạo ra hai nhân tố quan trọng: nổ lực của mỗi bên để được truyền giống và tránh nguy cơ bị “cắm sừng”.

In comparison to the female, the male requires a lot less time to start the process of reproduction and can move on to the next female if he desires quickly to produce another offspring. For women, however, their reproductive period is about nine months with the period after that for breastfeeding. This would amount up to a large amount of time and commitment that has to be invested. If it is based only on the number of offspring, there is more benefits for the males to engage in EMS. Because the females are the one who are carrying the offspring, males have more freedom in a sense to have EMS when their partners are pregnant.
Also, there is an increased risk of males being held cuckold because the fertilization of the egg takes place inside the female’s body. Males therefore are less possible to make sure that the offspring that their partners are carrying are theirs until they are born but females can be certain that the child they are carrying are theirs even though the father may not be their spouse. In this case, males are more likely than females to raise offspring that are not their own without even knowing it.
Having said all that, the reason that humans seek adultery can be one that is outside of the game theory. Beyond the biological reasons for seeking adultery, there is the emotional and physical aspect that accounts for why people commit adultery. One simple reason could be that one is trying to replace feelings that have been lost in a relationship and the hope of finding these feelings in an outside relationship. 20% of people who commit adultery do it because of emotional needs (Young). 65% of the people who committed adultery admitted to a lack of sexual intimacy in the relationship. From this statistics, we can see that adultery goes beyond just wanting to reproduce the most number of offspring but there are other areas that account for why humans are unfaithful. However, it is important not to dismiss the biological reasons as they, together with the emotional and physical reasons, do encourage the committing of adultery.

Young. 2008. Reasons for Adultery – And How The Shocking Statistics Reveal Why No One Can Be Complacent. Retrieved on March 31, 2012. (


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