Behavioral and Brain Sciences

Target Article

Genetic similarity, human altruism, and group selection

J. Philippe Rushtona1

a1 Department of Psychology, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada N6A 5C2

Abstract

A new theory of attraction and liking based on kin selection suggests that people detect genetic similarity in others in order to give preferential treatment to those who are most similar to themselves. There are many sources of empirical and theoretical support for this view, including (1) the inclusive fitness theory of altruism, (2) kin recognition studies of animals raised apart, (3) assortative mating studies, (4) favoritism in families, (5) selective similarity among friends, and (6) ethnocentrism. Specific tests of the theory show that (1) sexually interacting couples who produce a child are genetically more similar to each other in blood antigens than they are either to sexually interacting couples who fail to produce a child or to randomly paired couples from the same sample; (2) similarity between marriage partners is most marked in the more genetically influenced of sets of anthropometric, cognitive, and personality characteristics; (3) after the death of a child, parental grief intensity is correlated with the child's similarity to the parent; (4) long-term male friendship pairs are more similar to each other in blood antigens than they are to random dyads from the same sample; and (5) similarity among best friends is most marked in the more genetically influenced of sets of attitudinal, personality, and anthropometric characteristics. The mechanisms underlying these findings may constitute a biological substrate of ethnocentrism, enabling group selection to occur.

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