Sexual Conflict and Paternal Resemblance: Insight from Evolutionary Cognitive Neuroscience

Steven M. Platek and J. Ryan Porter

in The Oxford Handbook of Sexual Conflict in Humans

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780195396706
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

Sexual Conflict and Paternal Resemblance: Insight from Evolutionary Cognitive Neuroscience

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Detection of genetic relatedness (i.e., kinship) impacts the social, parental, and sexual behavior of many species. In humans, self-referent phenotype matching based on facial resemblance may indicate kinship. For example, faces that resemble ours are perceived as more trustworthy and attractive. Sex differences in behavioral reactions to facial resemblance among children have also been demonstrated and are consistent with evolutionary theory suggesting that resemblance might serve as a paternity cue. This idea, however, has proven controversial in the literature with some groups finding evidence in support and others not. In this chapter, we discuss the proximate mechanism of facial resemblance detection, in particular the proximate neural mechanisms, and attempt to place it in the context of sexual conflict with respect to paternal resemblance. There is still much research to be done, but some of the preliminary evolutionary cognitive neuroscientific research our group is doing appears to be unraveling the proximate neural mechanisms associated with humans’ abilities to detect facial resemblance, and sex differences in responses to children’s faces based on self-resemblance.

Keywords: paternal resemblance; sexual conflict; proximate neural mechanisms; paternity uncertainty; neuroimaging; evolutionary cognitive neuroscience

Article.  4849 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Social Psychology ; Clinical Psychology

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