Concept of monogamy is based on flawed science, study claims

It's possible that all previous studies into monogamy are 'problematic'

Rachel Hosie
Thursday 23 March 2017 11:19 GMT

In Western culture, we are brought up to believe relationships should be monogamous.

Cheating is wrong and we should all be faithful to our partners. Or at least that’s what we’re told from a young age.

But does monogamy really make sense? Or is it just something ingrained in us?

Scientists have for a long time researched into whether monogamy is better than polyamory but have never reached a conclusion.

This could be in part because “scientists can’t break free of a certain worldview gripping their field,” Quartz suggests.

The concept of monogamy is such a deep-rooted part of our culture that we don’t realise we have an unconscious bias towards it, which skews research.

In fact, a new study due to be published in Perspectives on Psychological Science this week will claim exactly that: relationship studies may be flawed because primacy is given to monogamous unions.

Researchers from the University of Michigan set out to discover whether previous studies have been skewed to promote monogamy, whether purposefully or not.

They concluded that the way we study relationships is problematic.

According to Terri Conley, the study’s lead author, our attitudes to monogamy are “so ingrained as to be invisible.

“It’s not even that we think about it being right,” she said. “We just see it as the only way.”

One way in which previous studies have been skewed is through the language used - words associated with polyamory are often not neutral.

People are asked about “infidelity” or “cheating,” for example, as well as the “offended party” or the “betrayed partner.”

The new study from the University of Michigan, however, claims that non-monogamous relationships are just as successful as monogamous.

They surveyed over 2,000 people over the age of 25, 617 of whom were in consensually non-monogamous relationships.

After assessing a range of factors such as jealousy, passion, trust and general satisfaction, they found that polyamorous relationships functioned just as well as the monogamous ones.

“The premise that monogamy is superior to other types of non-monogamous relational arrangements continues to permeate the ways in which researchers construct and test theories of love and intimacy,” Conley said.

But whether we can ever truly have studies free from any bias remains to be seen.

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