Kinship and descent

Lee Cronk and Drew Gerkey

in Oxford Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology

Published in print April 2007 | ISBN: 9780198568308
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

Kinship and descent

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  • Cognitive Psychology
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This article highlights the ways in which social anthropology and evolutionary biology converge and complement each other. This is made easier by recognizing that each discipline focuses on different but related phenomena. The evolutionary biology of kinship is about the behaviour of organisms towards their kin and the evolved psychology underlying such behaviour. The anthropology of kinship is about the socially transmitted information — in a word, culture — in which behaviour towards kin is embedded. While evolutionary biologists document and analyse nepotistic behaviour, social anthropologists seek to understand and interpret the language, values, and symbols that often distinguish the collective behavioural patterns of one society from another. The evolutionary biologist's position follows logically from the fact that most organisms cannot talk. When dealing with organisms that do have language, this position needs to be supplemented by the anthropological focus on kinship terminology, descent, and alliance.

Keywords: evolutionary biology; kinship; behaviour; kin; evolved psychology; culture; descent; alliance; social anthropology

Article.  10791 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Psychology ; Cognitive Neuroscience

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