Re: Incest taboos

Neil Taylor (
10 May 1995 08:01:00 GMT

Bryant ( wrote:
: You may be interested in reading work done regarding the
: "Westermark Effect," however, which suggests that there is a biological
: (psychological) mechanism for incest avoidance, quite apart from one's
: cultural context.
: Westermark found that children raised in close contact (as sibs
: would have been in our evolutionary past) show aversion towards one another
: as mates in the mid teens or later.
: Of course, sex play amongst sibs is not apparently rare in
: the late pre-teen childhood; these games don't translate into adult
: sexual preferences, however.

: I imagine that the Westermark Effect could productively be
: investigated as an evolutionary adaptation for incest avoidance. Since
: humans lack kin-recognition pheramones and the like (apparently), it
: would make sense that we would pay attention to whom we are raised with,
: and avoid them as mates. I'm not sure what the exact cues are.

I remember reading several times, of an interesting contrast to that
which was that siblings raised apart but introduced in adult life
often feel a very strong attraction. An explanation offered was along
the lines of "like attracts like", with the familiarity of upbringing
normally working to overcome and reverse it.

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