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Engineers and marital infidelity

March 16, 2010


My colleague Renee sent me a link to an interesting blog yesterday with a posting that had a very thought-provoking tidbit of information. It seems that there is a Website called AshleyMadison.com, (I cannot reach it from my desk because the RBI censors have blocked it for “adult content.”) which purports to be a dating site for people that want to cheat on their spouses. I’ll leave you to seek it out and make that evaluation yourself.

Anyway, that site has released a list of the professions that are the most likely to cheat based on analysis of its 1.9 million listings. They are:

For men:
1. Physicians
2. Police officers
3. Lawyers
4. Real estate agents
5. Engineers

For women:
1. Teachers
2. Stay-at-home moms
3. Nurses
4. Administrative assistants
5. Real estate agents

This information is making the rounds in various discussion areas. The most interesting bit for us is number five for men: Engineers. There are many possible reasons why this might be the case. Penelope Trunk’s Brazen Careerist blog says that she thinks it is incorrect. She observes: “Engineers make the top five, I think, only because it’s a trendy, online resource. I actually think that with more data we’d find that engineers cheat less.”

She’s probably right in much of her reasoning, although she might be a bit off the mark about “trendy” things appealing to engineers. That doesn’t mean that engineers are immune to, um, urges. Let’s face it, this is still a male-dominated profession, although I hope that continues to change. As older guys like me continue to retire, let’s hope a new generation that is more balanced takes our place. For the present however, it is interesting to observe behavior at a typical industry trade show. Walking down an aisle with or following an attractive woman is educational. Watching the heads turn will tell you what gets attention. I suppose the reaction may be no different than if you were walking down the street in a similar situation, but there are likely many mental calculations going on of all sorts of things in a matter of a few seconds.

I’d like to think that engineers have sufficient integrity to restrain inappropriate urges, but I’m not sure that the factors that push someone toward such a discipline make him or her different than the general population. On the other hand, maybe the self-discipline necessary to succeed at pursuing a difficult career suggests the ability to practice self restraint when appropriate. (But then again, that idea doesn’t seem to apply to doctors.) Call it an elevated sense of integrity if you will, but I suspect most engineers are too honest to be effective liars. That alone may have preserved many a marriage.