DeBruine LM (2015). How do humans recognize kin? (Invited Plenary). Human Behavior and Evolution Society in Columbia, Missouri, USA. May 2015.

Kinship is central to theories of social behaviour. Hamilton’s theory of inclusive fitness is widely recognised as the most important theoretical advance in evolutionary science since Darwin’s original theories, predicting that many social behaviours will be contingent on relatedness. Optimal outbreeding theory also predicts that organisms will be sensitive to cues of kinship when choosing mates due to the costs of close inbreeding and excessive outbreeding. However, kin-biased behavior requires mechanisms to recognize kin. So how do you know who your kin are? Research on human kin recognition is currently fragmented by theoretic perspective, type of kin, discipline, and methodology. In this talk, I will bring together this diverse body of research and present evidence for how contextual kinship cues (e.g., co-residence, maternal perinatal association) and phenotypic kinship cues (e.g., facial resemblance, MHC similarity) are used by humans to allocate sexual and prosocial behavior. I will also discuss whether kin recognition is best characterized as a unitary system or as a collection of behaviors that may or may not share underlying mechanisms.

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