Social perception of facial resemblance in humans

Lisa M. DeBruine, Benedict C. Jones, Anthony C. Little, David I. Perrett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

115 Citations (Scopus)


Two lines of reasoning predict that highly social species will have mechanisms to influence behavior toward individuals depending on their degree of relatedness. First, inclusive fitness theory leads to the prediction that organisms will preferentially help closely related kin over more distantly related individuals. Second, evaluation of the relative costs and potential benefits of inbreeding suggests that the degree of kinship should also be considered when choosing a mate. In order to behaviorally discriminate between individuals with different levels of relatedness, organisms must be able to discriminate cues of kinship. Facial resemblance is one such potential cue in humans. Computer-graphic manipulation of face images has made it possible to experimentally test hypotheses about human kin recognition by facial phenotype matching. We review recent experimental evidence that humans respond to facial resemblance in ways consistent with inclusive fitness theory and considerations of the costs of inbreeding, namely by increasing prosocial behavior and positive attributions toward self-resembling images and selectively tempering attributions of attractiveness to other-sex faces in the context of a sexual relationship.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)64-77
Number of pages14
JournalArchives of Sexual Behavior
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2008


  • assortative mating
  • faces
  • kin recognition
  • resemblance
  • social perception


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