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Westermarck effect

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Reverse sexual imprinting is also seen: when two people live in close domestic proximity during the first few years in the life of either one, both are desensitized to later close sexual attraction and bonding. This phenomenon, known as the Westermarck effect, was discovered by anthropologist Edvard Westermarck. The Westermarck effect has since been observed in many places and cultures, including in the Israeli kibbutz system, and the Chinese Shim-pua marriage customs, as well as in biological-related families.

In the case of the Israeli kibbutz farms, these children grew up in a common children's house, away from their parents. They spent the entire day and night together. This resulted in a generation that was not interested in the opposite sex within their class. It is an extreme example of grouping since the adults were also removed from the environment.

When this does not occur, for example where a brother and sister are brought up not knowing about one another, they may find one another highly sexually attractive when they meet as adults: a phenomenon known as genetic sexual attraction. This observation is consistent with the theory that the Westermarck effect evolved to suppress inbreeding.

Westermarck and Freud Edit

Freud argued that members of the same family naturally lust for one another, making it necessary for societies to create incest taboos, but Westermarck argued the reverse, that the taboos themselves arise naturally as products of a simple inherited epigenetic response. Subsequent research over the years supports Westermarck's observations and interpretation. But still some psychoanalysts do agree with and support the Freudian concept. One argument used to support their stance is that such taboos would be pointless if there were no desire to perform the acts in question.


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PapersEdit

Walter, A. (1990). Putting Freud and Westermarck in Their Places: A Critique of Spain. Ethos, Vol. 18, No. 4 pp. 439-446

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