The architecture of human kin detection

Debra Lieberman, John Tooby, Leda Cosmides

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

319 Scopus citations

Abstract

Evolved mechanisms for assessing genetic relatedness have been found in many species, but their existence in humans has been a matter of controversy. Here we report three converging lines of evidence, drawn from siblings, that support the hypothesis that kin detection mechanisms exist in humans. These operate by computing, for each familiar individual, a unitary regulatory variable (the kinship index) that corresponds to a pairwise estimate of genetic relatedness between self and other. The cues that the system uses were identified by quantitatively matching individual exposure to potential cues of relatedness to variation in three outputs relevant to the system's evolved functions: sibling altruism, aversion to personally engaging in sibling incest, and moral opposition to third party sibling incest. As predicted, the kin detection system uses two distinct, ancestrally valid cues to compute relatedness: the familiar other's perinatal association with the individual's biological mother, and duration of sibling coresidence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)727-731
Number of pages5
JournalNature
Volume445
Issue number7129
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 15 2007
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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