Fasolt V, Holzleitner IJ, Lee A, O'Shea KJ, Jones BC & DeBruine LM (2017). Third Party Kin Recognition. 5th International Society for Human Ethology Summer Institute in Athens. May 2015.

Kinship informs the allocation of pro-social and sexual behaviour. While cognitive cues, such as co-habitation, play an important role in assessing relatedness, phenotypic cues might also inform relatedness judgments. Research consistently shows that third parties can identify relatedness of individuals from their faces alone at levels somewhat above chance, but these studies differ in more nuanced findings. Some research has found that children resemble their fathers more than their mothers at age one, while other research found that infants look more like their mothers and female adults in general than fathers and male adults, yet others found no difference in whom children resemble. Another inconsistency between studies is the difference in methods used, as some studies used similarity ratings, some used binary kinship judgments, and others used a 3-alternative forced-choice task. Additionally, many studies have used non-laboratory photographs chosen by family members, which may contain biases. Most studies used stimuli with a neutral facial expression, however it is unclear why that decision was made, as emotional expression might be used as a cue of relatedness. Likewise, only siblings and parent-child pairings have been investigated so far and little is known about the impact of degree of relatedness on third party kinship recognition. Here, we review previous studies and outline new avenues of research that have not yet been explored. The goal of the review and suggestions will be to address the inconsistencies encountered in the field to build a replicable, clear and sophisticated set of criteria that could inform future studies in order to compare results and draw valid conclusions about third party kinship recognition.

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