The Nature Of Micro-Cheating Among College Students In The University Of Baguio

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Cheating has always been a phenomenal issue, both in the academic setting and in romantic relationships, it is undeniable that it questions one's loyalty, and thus wears off the safety pin of trust. In this study, cheating can also be referred to as infidelity. Infidelity has been defined as “a violation of a couple’s assumed or stated contract regarding emotional and/or sexual exclusivity.” The act of infidelity (secret romantic activity) with a person other than your significant partner and the violation of relationship exclusivity (i.e. marriage, dating relationship) has been found to have caused deep pain, loss of trust, and uncertainty to the cheated partner. Beltrán-Morillas, Valor-Segura, and Expósito (2019) cited that one of the most unforgivable betrayals in a relationship is the act of infidelity, as it threatens the stability of a relationship and given the high expectation that your partner will remain faithful and loyal to your relationship contributes to reasons why it is indeed an unforgivable act. Ong, Poon, Sibya, and Macapagal (2014) provided three types of infidelity in their study: sexual, emotional or combined. Sexual infidelity is the result of sexual activity done outside the primary relationship. This type of infidelity is also called as physical infidelity, and usually it includes petting, erotic kissing, and sexual intercourse. Emotional infidelity, according to Ong et. al. (2014) does not include any physical intimacy. Intimacy is explained as “generated from forming a deep emotional attachment to someone other than the relationship partner.” Emotional infidelity includes flirting, dating, or spending excessive time with someone outside the committed relationship as it formed an intimate, romantic bond between two people. Finally, combined infidelity includes both sexual (physical) and emotional and said to be the most threatening type to a relationship. Based on the given brief explanations of three types of infidelity, the present study assumes that emotional infidelity is closely related to micro-cheating. Thus, emotional infidelity is used as the main anchor to micro-cheating.

Several studies have been carried on to study emotional infidelity in a relationship. Every research has a different lens on how they view emotional infidelity. However, it is a topic that can always be replicated and not a recent issue in the field of study. Thus, a concept called micro-cheating has recently emerged but has yet to be studied empirically. Micro-cheating still has a limited range of definitions. It is said to be similar to emotional infidelity though experts debunk the idea. Therefore, the area of interest is identifying the nature of micro-cheating according to the perception of college students at the University of Baguio about the concept.

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Micro-cheating is an emerging concept that has been an offshoot of the concepts of cheating and infidelity. Emotional infidelity has been defined as falling in love with, sharing emotional intimacy, or spending quality time with someone outside of the committed or primary relationship. There seems to be an assumption that emotional infidelity is defined as being “in love” only. This leaves little room for inclusion of other behaviors, thoughts, or actions that may be considered more emotionally-based infidelity. For example, flirtatious behaviors via technology or in person among coworkers who are in separate, committed relationships would not be considered emotional infidelity unless it was determined that they are “in love” with one another. It is said that flirtatious behavior towards people outside your relationship cannot be considered as an emotional infidelity, unless you feel the fondness of being in love. Therefore, it differs from what the concept of micro-cheating has been. In the study of Morrissey, flirtatious behavior in person or over the technology cannot be considered as an emotional infidelity unless they have the feeling of being “in love.” Its difference with the researcher’s study is that, hypothetically, micro-cheating doesn’t need the feeling of being “in love” to show trivial acts of affection towards another person.

In a study by Cole (2001), three possible explanations underlying the use of deception in romantic relationships were tested. It was expected that deception would be related to the reciprocal exchange of information, the desire to avoid punishment, and individuals' attachment beliefs. The result of using deception in a romantic relationship shows negative outcome to oneself but it has a modest positive impact on a partner, unless of course it is detected. Since micro cheating is a subtle gesture used by an individual in a relationship, Cole provides an insight of how easily an individual can be deceived and it is mentioned that individuals desired to avoid punishment, that is why they use deception as a method when they did something wrong. Therefore, this can also help the researchers understand why micro-cheating is a vague term in a relationship because it is said that people also often choose to use deception just to avoid punishment. That act alone proves that sometimes cheating is hard to detect, that is why people still engage in such activities even though they know with their own self that it is wrong.

Within a work setting, it might be considered appropriate to form a strong connection with a colleague whom you work closely with. Another area discussed in research is when a “boundary has been crossed” that goes beyond a friendship. The researchers will use the population of college students, therefore, emotional infidelity can be developed in a workplace as well as developing emotional affection in a school setting. Even college students could grow an affection towards one another since college students complete their projects with different people.

In the journal article of men and women showing distinct brain activations of imagery of sexual and emotional infidelity and in the section of its methods, the researcher shows the meaning of emotional infidelity as a condition indicating diversion of partner's emotional commitment to another partner outside the committed relationship. The brain works differently according to the study, as it mentions that emotional infidelity sentences along with physical/sexual infidelity sentences, the result was that the brain gives people more signals of brainwave activity when they talk about physical/sexual infidelity. Hence, the study dictates that emotional infidelity has less effect on the brain compared to physical/sexual infidelity. Examples of emotional sentences from the thesis; wrote a love letter to another man, had dinner with another man on my birthday, supplied another man with all the money she had saved, telephones her ex-boyfriend every day, always talks with delight about her ex-boyfriend in front of me, emails to her ex-boyfriend every night, gave gorgeous birthday present to her ex-boyfriend, and meets another man more frequently than me. According to Takahashi (2006), all the aforementioned statements were not incorporated with physical cheating but only on the aspect of emotional cheating. In the advantage of the researchers, in the further discussion of the study in the perception of micro-cheating and its boundaries on emotional infidelity, the researchers may use the said sentences in identifying the difference of emotional infidelity and micro-cheating respectively.

To further understand the concept of micro-cheating, the researchers intend to look into its nature through the lens of sex difference. In general, most individuals perceived infidelity as unacceptable regardless of its types, whether it is physical or emotional. However, male and females perceive infidelity differently. Schonian (2013) cited that men tend to react strongly to physical infidelity such as sexual behavior while women are more on the emotional aspect of infidelity. Thornton and Nagurney (2011) added that even though there was no physical contact in the act, women still react strongly to emotional infidelity. There is a higher tendency that women will also react strongly to micro-cheating behaviors as it is closely related to emotional infidelity.

Micro-cheating first emerged in 2004, however, it only reached the public consciousness in 2018 when an article written by Thought Catalog, a digital youth culture magazine, went viral. Melanie Schilling, a dating expert, described micro-cheating as a series of trivial behaviors that suggest a person is committed emotionally or physically to someone outside their relationship. Schilling included emotional and physical aspects of committing micro-cheating. However, it was not specified what kind of trivial behaviors a person does when they micro-cheat. On the contrary, Ty Tashiro, a psychologist and an author, defined micro-cheating as small actions of emotional infidelity and does not involve physical contact. Dr Martin Graff of the University of South Wales, who conducted a study on micro-cheating that is currently under review in the Journal of Personal and Social Relationships explained micro-cheating, he said that it is the “grey area which falls between flirting and unfaithful behaviour”, which means micro-cheating is either flirting or infidelity which proves that the concept of micro-cheating is still vague. The three definitions given by Schilling, Tashiro, and Graff have differences however they have a common denominator, they all said that micro-cheating happens on the online platform, such as reacting to other people's pictures on social media, which raises the question regarding its context and why it is considered as an act of micro-cheating. Lusinski (2018) claimed that micro-cheating is purely behavior based, it means that sneaking or trivial behaviors like touching someone that may indicate romance is an act of micro-cheating. In contrast to what Lusinski claimed, Graff said that micro-cheating is about context and intention.

On the other hand, Tashiro concludes that micro-cheating and emotional infidelity are the same thing but according to Dr. Fran Walfish, a psychotherapist and an author, there are certain signs to conclude that micro-cheating and emotional infidelity has disparity. These signs include: they completely fill your mind; you modify your routine to see them frequently; you always contact them; and your feelings for them deepen and intensify. The signs stated by Walfish are still not quantifiable, that’s why there are still no established boundaries between the two concepts, in addition to the fact that micro-cheating is still an unknown concept in the field of study.

Postmodern lens. It is a philosophical tradition that challenges the assumptions of modernism. Schonian argue that we can look at infidelity from varied points of view and in doing so, we can characterize infidelity in different ways as well . From a postmodern lens, perception of micro-cheating is entirely subjective, unlike the claims of modernists where it is an objective reality. Although certain variables, like differences in cultural background, may influence the perception of an individual regarding micro-cheating, it can also provide insights on a different aspect.

Triangular Theory of Love. The triangular theory of love holds that love can be understood in terms of three components that together can be viewed as forming the vertices of a triangle. Intimacy refers to feelings of closeness, connectedness, and bondedness, Passion refers to the drives that lead to romance, physical attraction, sexual consummation, and related phenomena, and Decision/commitment refers, in the short-term, to the decision that one loves a certain other, and in the long-term, to one's commitment to maintain that love. The researchers can use this theory to support the study by understanding that cheating can occur when one component in the triangular theory of love is absent. Such form of love is called fatuous love, which is from the combination of passion and decision/commitment components and in the absence of the intimacy component. This means there is a great desire to be together and the couple is committed to maintain the relationship, however, the level of intimacy can be considered non-existent. Therefore, it will fit the narrative of emotional infidelity since it focuses on passion and commitment and it is done via trivial acts of flirtatious behavior without the form of physical intimacy. This theory can help the researchers in looking into the nature of micro-cheating.

Attachment Theory. The attachment theory by John Bowlby (1950) tackles how a child seeks for support and sense of security towards its primary caregivers, which also shapes individuals' experiences later on in life.The researchers find this theory vital and relevant to the study for it showcases how attachments affects an individual’s perspective about their own relationship with other people, that can often lead to micro-cheating behavior, taking into consideration the four adult attachment styles namely: anxious preoccupied, dismissive, avoidant, fearful avoidant, and secure.

Evolutionary Psychology. It states that men are less discriminating in choosing a partner . Men tend to engage in short-term mating behavior as it will be more effective in passing on genes. While women, on the other hand, are more involved in long-term mating behavior where they find someone who will take care of their family. This framework strengthens the hypothesis that sex indeed influences the perception regarding micro-cheating.

Being in a vast society that implores gradual change towards modernization and advances in technology, a great deal of challenges has been imposed. Just as how easy an information can be disseminated and acquired, so as deceitful acts and cheating behaviors. The emerging concept of micro-cheating has been controversially apprehended, with the fact that infidelity has been an inflicting issue towards couples.

The conduct of this study provides descriptive elucidation of information about the emerging concept of micro-cheating and how most individuals in a certain relationship retaliate to it. With this study, the college students of University of Baguio, particularly the STELA students, will be given the chance to evaluate their thoughts on micro-cheating behaviors, and to mitigate its impact on emotional and mental health.

The study on micro-cheating can be considered a newly born concept on the consciousness of research. Considering this fact, the researchers intended to approach the concept using the qualitative perspective. This design was intended to indepthly interpret datas, that were derived from semi-structured interviews, observing participants, and to further describe concepts of micro-cheating. It also showcases strengths towards explaining and transcribing the participants perception towards micro-cheating.

The study aims to select research participants through the use of simple random sampling. The eight respondents which compose of four males and four females will be selected by considering several criteria such as:college students enrolled in the University of Baguio, particularly from the School of Teacher Education and Liberal Arts, during the School Year 2020-2021, and who are currently in a romantic relationship for at least six months. In order to get relevant and supported data exclusion criteria were established, such as: participants with ages ranging 18 and below.

The researchers will be using semi-structured interviews to collect data from the participants. A series of questions which consist of 5-five to 10 questions will serve as the data collection method for this study. The series of questions will range from general to specific. The study attempts to question the perception of college students about infidelity in general and moving forward to questions about the perception of micro-cheating and what actions count as micro-cheating.

Some steps will be undertaken by the researchers to gather relevant data for the study that includes: the formulation and approval of structured interview questions, that will aid in the conduct of the interviews. The interviews will be done using electronic platforms, such as video call conferencing (e.g., Zoom or Google Meet) or through the participants emails given the circumstances and the current situation that we are currently in, which pertains to the global pandemic that requires strict obedience to the set health protocols by the authorities.

To fully analyze and interpret the data, the researchers intend to use thematic analysis in apprehending the data that has been gathered. With this method participants' responses on the interview will be evaluated by conceptualizing themes which according to Braun and Clarke (2019) were a central organizing concept. These concepts were considered to be consistent and show considerable sense of pattern, taking into account the details that were neither explicitly stated nor neglected.

To ensure the study’s high morale standard and that its sole purpose was to contribute to the field of research objectively, some ethical practices will be considered. Informed consent will be given to the participants before the data collection, via electronic form, through emails, and Google Form. Participants will be informed about the process of their participation in the study. They will also be told that they can withdraw or decide not to participate in the study and that there will be no underlying penalties and it will not be taken against them. All information that will be consolidated during the conduct of the study will be kept in utmost confidentiality, and will only be used for academic purposes. If the consent will be sought prior to recording the interviews. Only the researchers will have access to the given data and stored in a safe file drive with password-protected file so that the confidentiality of the paper is secured.

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The Nature Of Micro-Cheating Among College Students In The University Of Baguio. (2022, September 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 12, 2024, from
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