July 28, 2010 by Lin Edwards
(PhysOrg.com) -- Researchers reporting in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin last week say people are drawn to others who resemble their parents or themselves. This may explain why incest taboos are found in many cultures - to counter a natural tendency.
University of Illinois psychologist, Chris Fraley, said there had been a century-long debate on whether incest taboos are psychological or cultural adaptations designed to suppress a biological urge. In the early 20th century Sigmund Freud, a psychoanalyst, proposed it was psychological, while Edward Westermarck, a sociologist, proposed it was cultural. Westermarck thought there was a critical time in childhood during which people would not find attractive people who were raising them or raised with them.
Most modern researchers think Westermarck was correct, but a new study led by Fraley suggests there may also be a psychological component in which we align ourselves with our kin, who are genetically close to us.
The research involved three experiments. In the first, volunteers were shown pictures of strangers’ faces and asked to rate them on sexual attractiveness. They were unaware that they were also being shown photographs just before the strangers’ faces, and these were flashed so quickly they could only be processed subliminally. Half the volunteers were flashed a picture of their opposite gender parent, while the remaining subjects were flashed a picture of an unrelated person.
The results of this experiment were that those who were exposed to a picture of their parent generally found the stranger's face more sexually attractive than those who were shown the photo of an unrelated person.
A second experiment used images of two faces morphed together. The control group was shown images of faces of strangers morphed together, but the other subjects were shown faces that were composites of a stranger's face and (unknowingly) up to 45% their own face. They then rated the sexual attractiveness of the morph.
In this experiment the subjects shown images containing their own face found the picture more sexually attractive.
Thursday, July 29, 2010
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