News Will he cheat? It's all in the face

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Will he cheat on you? It’s all in the face

It’s estimated that around one in five adults in monogamous relationships will cheat on their partner…but with no way of knowing who, when or who with, that’s just a risk you’ve got to take. Or do you?

New research by the University of Western Australia suggests it’s possible to predict whether a man is going to cheat on a woman just by looking at their face, and what’s more, women can successfully make this connection.

It’s the first study to accurately link people’s impressions of unfaithfulness with face types, and proves that “accurate judgements of unfaithfulness can be made from face alone, in the absence of behavioural cues,” according to the study’s authors. However, the ability to pick a cheater from a faithful follower is a skill that only women posses – the study found that men were not able to pick unfaithful women by judging their faces alone.

The study drew on heterosexual participants aged between 17 and 48, who were asked to assess colour photographs of 200 faces of the opposite sex. The study participants were given three seconds within which to rate each face on perceived faithfulness and trustworthiness.

Prior to the assessment, each of the individuals assessed had reported their relationship history, with around half reporting cheating on a partner, or having sex with someone who was in a relationship.

At the end of the assessment, the female participants were shown to be better at detected the cheaters and poacher, with just 38 per cent of women getting their assessments wrong – compared to 77 per cent of men.

“Women’s rating of men’s unfaithfulness showed small-moderate correlations with men’s past unfaithfulness,” the study said. When it comes to men, on the other hand, the researchers suggest there is “little evidence for accuracy in men’s assessments of female unfaithfulness.”

The poor judgement shown by men could come down to a lack of valid infidelity cues shown on a woman’s face, the researchers suggest. Either that, or an insensitivity to such cues.

The researchers believe this study, which will be published in this week’s Royal Society Journals, is important given the costs of making poor choices when settling on a life partner. “These costs include the risk of men raising another man’s child and women losing the parental support and resources to ‘competitors,'” they say.

“We routinely form impressions of people from their faces, and these impressions sometimes contain a kernel of truth. Impressions of trustworthiness are central to interpersonal relationships, but their accuracy remains contentious.”

So, what should we look out for? The researchers found masculine-looking men were accurately rated as more likely to be unfaithful and have a sexual history of being unfaithful.

It’s worth mentioning, however, that an earlier study – which gauged the opinions of more than 70,000 people – suggests we fear cheating more than we need.

In 2007, participants in a survey estimated that twice as many people were having extramarital affairs as really were, guessing that 44 per cent of married men and 36 per cent of married women were unfaithful. The reality, however, was that cheating’s not as rampant as we think, with 28 per cent of married men and 18 per cent of married women admitting to having a sexual liaison, according to the survey.

“We think everybody is out there doing it,” said Janet Lever, a sociologist at California State University, Los Angeles, and the study’s lead researcher. “Well, they’re not.”

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About the Author

Lizzy has more than ten years’ experience in the print and digital publishing arena and is the Editor at Single File. Having moved from the UK to Australia in 2008, Lizzy has worked for a number of leading publishers in Sydney and has particular expertise in the health, wellness and travel markets. If you have any questions for Lizzy, you can send them across by email to

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