Affordable Access

Opposite-sex siblings decrease attraction, but not prosocial attributions, to self-resembling opposite-sex faces

National Academy of Sciences
Publication Date


Contextual cues of genetic relatedness to familiar individuals, such as cosocialization and maternal–perinatal association, modulate prosocial and inbreeding-avoidance behaviors toward specific potential siblings. These findings have been interpreted as evidence that contextual cues of kinship indirectly influence social behavior by affecting the perceived probability of genetic relatedness to familiar individuals. Here, we test a more general alternative model in which contextual cues of kinship can influence the kin-recognition system more directly, changing how the mechanisms that regulate social behavior respond to cues of kinship, even in unfamiliar individuals for whom contextual cues of kinship are absent. We show that having opposite-sex siblings influences inbreeding-relevant perceptions of facial resemblance but not prosocial perceptions. Women with brothers were less attracted to self-resembling, unfamiliar male faces than were women without brothers, and both groups found self-resemblance to be equally trustworthy for the same faces. Further analyses suggest that this effect is driven by younger, rather than older, brothers, consistent with the proposal that only younger siblings exhibit the strong kinship cue of maternal–perinatal association. Our findings provide evidence that experience with opposite-sex siblings can directly influence inbreeding-avoidance mechanisms and demonstrate a striking functional dissociation between the mechanisms that regulate inbreeding and the mechanisms that regulate prosocial behavior toward kin.

There are no comments yet on this publication. Be the first to share your thoughts.