Living Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science

pp 1-5

Date: Latest Version

Adaptive Problem of Detecting Kinship

  • Sonia TucciAffiliated withSchool of Psychology, University of Liverpool Email author 


Altruistic behavior; Coresidence; Genetic relatedness; Incestuous behavior; Kin detection system; Maternal perinatal association; Nepotism;


Evolution of cues used by humans to detect kin in order to avoid incest and promote altruistic behavior toward genetic relatives.


As a highly social species, humans interact and cooperate with many individuals; however cooperation among relatives tends to be greater than among unrelated individuals (Hamilton 1964). Throughout history, humans of all known cultures have always tended to feel and behave differently toward family members than to individuals to whom they were not genetically related. This behavior, which is not exclusive to humans, is distinguished by two important traits: on the one hand, the display of a highly altruistic behavior in which their own welfare could be sacrificed to help family members and, on the other hand, an innate aversion to any sexual contact with genetic relatives. From the evolutionar ...

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