Kin recognition and perceived facial similarity

Hansen, F., Debruine, L. M. , Holzleitner, I. , Lee, A. J., O'Shea, K. J. and Fasolt, V. (2020) Kin recognition and perceived facial similarity. Journal of Vision, 20(6), 18. (doi: 10.1167/jov.20.6.18) (PMID:32579674)

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Facial similarity between individuals informs kinship judgments in third-party kin recognition. Indeed, one study found that similarity and kinship judgments encapsulate the same information (Maloney & Dal Martello, 2006). Yet, another study found that this is not the case when comparing adult face pairs of different sex (DeBruine et al., 2009). We replicated these studies to further clarify the role of facial similarity in kin recognition. We recruited 318 raters, who were shown 50 sibling pairs and 50 age- and sex-matched unrelated pairs ranging from 3 to 17 years old. Each rater was randomly assigned to make either kinship judgments (“related” or “unrelated”) or similarity judgments (scale from 0 [not very similar] to 10 [very similar]). The threshold model found that performance in both tasks was equally accurate, with participants detecting child siblings in the kinship task above chance and giving significantly higher similarity ratings to siblings in the similarity task. In both tasks, opposite-sex siblings were perceived to be siblings less often than same-sex siblings, and judgments of unrelated face pairs were not affected by the sex of faces. Conversely, the effect of age difference within pairs of faces differed for the two tasks: a greater age difference decreased all kinship judgments, but only decreased similarity judgments of siblings, not unrelated pairs. In line with DeBruine et al. (2009), these findings suggest that similarity and kinship judgments are highly correlated but not strictly synonymous. The OSF Pre-registration Challenge for this project can be found at and the data at

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:DeBruine, Professor Lisa and Fasolt, Vanessa and O'Shea, Dr Kieran and Holzleitner, Dr Iris
Authors: Hansen, F., Debruine, L. M., Holzleitner, I., Lee, A. J., O'Shea, K. J., and Fasolt, V.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Psychology & Neuroscience
Journal Name:Journal of Vision
Publisher:Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology
ISSN (Online):1534-7362
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2020 The Authors
First Published:First published in Journal of Vision 20(6):18
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
172112KINSHIP: How do humans recognise kin?Lisa DebruineEuropean Research Council (ERC)647910NP - Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging (CCNi)