Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science

Living Edition
| Editors: Todd K. Shackelford, Viviana A. Weekes-Shackelford

Sexual Imprinting

  • Bowen Hou
  • Yan WangEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-16999-6_1061-1



The process through which sexual preferences are acquired from the characteristics of the parents.


Sexual imprinting is a special type of imprinting which is thought to be related to sexual or mate preferences of animals. As evolutionary psychology mainly focuses on behavioral traits involved with survival and reproduction, sexual imprinting has been intensively studied, especially the sexual imprinting in human beings.

In fact, sexual imprinting can be either positive or negative. Positive sexual imprinting refers to acquiring sexual preferences according to the characteristics of one or both of the foster parents. The frequently mentioned “sexual imprinting” usually refers to positive sexual imprinting. On the contrary, negative sexual imprinting refers to acquired avoidance of mating with individuals who resemble kin, which is also known as Westermarck effect. The phenomenon of sexual imprinting has been found in both...

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyFudan UniversityShanghaiChina

Section editors and affiliations

  • Menelaos Apostolou
    • 1
  1. 1.University of NicosiaNicosiaCyprus