While some guys seem comfortable settling down with one partner, others clearly prefer to play the field, prompting scientists to ask whether there might be a biological basis for monogamy. Now, a new study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior provides further evidence that some men might be more inclined toward monogamy than others. When scientists scanned the brains of monogamous men and non-monogamous men, they noticed some key differences in how their brains worked.
Scientists recruited 10 men who were serially monogamous (meaning they'd had five sexual partners or less in their lifetime, and they fantasized about someone other than their current partner less than once a month).
They also recruited 10 non-monogamous guys, or those who had previous relationships with more than one partner at once, preferred multiple partners, or had more than five lifetime sexual partners. Then they showed them sexually explicit photos, romantic photos, or neutral photos, like of the scenery or landscape.
The brains of both groups behaved the same when they were looking at the sexy pictures and the boring ones. But when looking at the romantic photos—say, of people hugging or holding hands—there were some key differences. Monogamous men showed significantly more activation in parts of their brain related to reward than non-monogamous men did.
The researchers believe these results suggest that romantic photos, or other stimuli that evoke romance, may be more satisfying for guys who are inclined to be monogamous.
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Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s a biological basis for monogamy. The researchers say that this might be a learned behavior, meaning that men who are monogamous may have simply have had more rewarding romantic, bonding experiences in their lives than men who are not.
Such experiences might have conditioned those men to associate romantic images with feelings of pleasure, which means they may be more likely to seek out romantic monogamous relationships.
It's also worth noting that the study's findings might not be specific to gender. While this specific study assessed men's brains, other research has concluded that contrary to popular belief, women are not hard-wired to be monogamous; in fact, a recent study indicated that women are more likely than men to get bored with sex in a long-term relationship.
As with a lot of scientific studies, the researchers just don’t know for sure if it’s nature or nurture. One thing we can say for sure? If you’re the kind of guy who struggles with monogamy, these findings aren’t enough for you to blame your straying on simple biology. Here are 4 things you should ask yourself before you even think about cheating.
This article originally appeared on Men's Health