Kin Recognition

Peter Hepper

in The Oxford Handbook of Evolutionary Family Psychology

Published in print May 2011 | ISBN: 9780195396690
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

 Kin Recognition

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  • Psychology
  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental Psychology


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Kinship appears to be a major influence on the lives of animals. This chapter examines three key questions. First, do animals respond differentially to kin and nonkin? Examples are presented to illustrate that in all animal classes, in a wide variety of situations, kinship is a determinant of social behavior. Second, why do animals respond differentially to kin and nonkin? The answer lies in the benefits in fitness an animal receives through differential responding to kin and nonkin, as described by inclusive fitness and kin selection theory. Cooperative behavior, parental care, mate choice, and social cohesion, also benefit from this differential responding. The third question addresses how individuals recognize their kin. The three central components of kin recognition: the cues used, the classification of kin, and the development of kin recognition, are discussed with a view to describing how these elements must be constructed to ensure that individuals recognize their kin and discriminate degrees of relatedness. Some future directions for a greater understanding of kin recognition are presented at the end of the review.

Keywords: Kin recognition; kin discrimination; inclusive fitness; cues of kinship; development of kin recognition; animals

Article.  14085 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Social Psychology ; Developmental Psychology

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