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Kin recognition refers to animals' capabilities to distinguish between close genetic kin and non-kin. In evolutionary biology and in psychology, such capabilities are presumed to have evolved to serve the adaptive functions of kin altruism (see kin selection) and inbreeding avoidance. Apart from a few exceptional cases (e.g., the green-beard effect), kin recognition is achieved via several cue-based mechanisms (e.g., imprinting, phenotype matching). Because kin recognition is cue based, errors sometimes occur. A well-known example is the Westermarck effect in which unrelated individuals who spend their childhood in the same household find each other sexually unattractive.


Lieberman, D., Tooby, J. & Cosmides, L. (2007). The architecture of human kin detection. Nature, 445, 727-731.

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