Project Title

I’ll Have What He’s Having: Acceptability of Mate-Poaching Behaviors

Project Abstract

Purpose: Mate poaching behaviors are behaviors intended to attract another individual’s romantic partner (Schmitt & Buss, 2001; Schmitt, 2004). In the U.S., 50% of marriages end in divorce or separation, with infidelity being the strongest predictor of divorce (Harris, 2018). The purpose of the current study was to examine the perceptions of mate poaching behaviors as these behaviors play an important role in the initiation or execution of infidelity. We hypothesized as with past sex research, males will have more liberal perceptions (i.e., rate mate-poaching behaviors as more acceptable) than females, and individuals in committed relationships will have more conservative perceptions than single participants. Additionally, we hypothesized that relationship contingent self-worth, sociosexual orientation, and avoidant attachment styles would predict liberal perceptions, whereas sex guilt and anxious attachment to predict conservative perceptions of mate-poaching behaviors.

Procedure: A total of 207 participants were recruited (126 males, 78 females) from MTurk to complete an online survey. These participants’ ages ranged between 21-years-old to 68-years-old (Mage = 35). Participants completed measures of attachment (Fraley et al., 2000), sociosexuality (Penke & Asendorpf, 2008), sex-guilt (Janda & Bazemore, 2011), relationship contingent self-worth (Sanchez & Kwang, 2007), and acceptability of mate-poaching behaviors (revised from Wilson et al., 2011). After completion of the survey, the participants were compensated $0.50 for their time.

Results: As hypothesized, males (M = 2.14, SD = 1.09) were more liberal than females (M = 1.65, SD = 1.29) on the acceptability of mate poaching behaviors, t(202) = .91, p = .004. However, there was no difference based on relationship status. As predicted, sociosexual orientation (r = .27, p < .001) and avoidant attachment styles ( r = .20, p = .004) were correlated with mate-poaching perceptions. However, anxious attachment was correlated in the opposite direction (r = .23, p = .001) and relationship contingent self-worth did not correlate at all (r = .09, p = .199). Finally, a multiple regression, F(5, 198) = 7.35, p < .001, R2 = .16) indicated that being male (β = -.14, p = .033), unrestricted sociosexual orientation (β = .31, p <.001), and high sexual guilt (β = .18, p = .029) predicted liberal perceptions of mate-poaching behaviors.

Conclusions and implications: These findings highlight individuals’ perceptions of mate-poaching behaviors. This is important because these attitudes could predict eventually engaging in behaviors that may lead to relationship dissolution, even in marriages.


Conference name (full, no abbreviations): 92nd Annual Midwestern Psychological Association Conference

Dates: April 23-25, 2020

Sponsoring body: Midwestern Psychological Association

Conference website:

Funding Type

Travel Grant

Academic College

College of Humanities and Fine Arts


Clinical Psychology


Masters in Clinical Psychology

Graduation Expected

May 2020




Jana Hackathorn Ph.D.

Academic College

College of Humanities and Fine Arts

Beginning date of project


End date of project


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