Kin recognition and the perceived facial similarity of children

Journal of Vision
Laurence T Maloney, Maria F Dal Martello


We examine the connection between a hypothetical kin recognition signal available in visual perception and the perceived facial similarity of children. One group of observers rated the facial similarity of pairs of children portrayed in photographs. Half of the pairs were siblings but the observers were not told this. A second group classified the pairs as siblings or nonsiblings. An optimal Bayesian classifier, given the similarity ratings of the first group, was as accurate in judging siblings as the second group. Mean rated similarity was also an accurate linear predictor (R2 = .96) of the log-odds that the rated pair portrayed were, in fact, siblings. Surprisingly, mean rated similarity did not vary with the age difference or gender difference of the pairs, both of which were counterbalanced across the stimuli. We conclude that the perceived facial similarity of children is little more than a graded kin recognition signal and that this kin recognition signal is effectively an estimate of the probability that two children are close genetic relatives.


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