Sex differences in ability to recognize family resemblance

Randolph M. Nesse, Andrew Silverman, Alan Bortz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


In order to test the different expectations of evolutionary psychologists and "folk" psychologists about whether men or women are better at judging family resemblance, we created a test consisting of pairs of photographs, some of a parent and that parent's child, and some of an unrelated parent and child. Two hundred subjects judged the relatedness of 24 pairs of photos. The results show women and men to be equal in ability to judge family resemblance (mean number correct 14.99 versus 14.53, F = 1.7, p = 0.19). Both sexes were better able to judge resemblance for mothers than fathers (F = 11.25, p < 0.0001), and men and women were better at judging relatedness for children of their own sex (F = 3.99, p < 0.05). Ability to judge family resemblance was not related to the rater's age, marital status, number of siblings, number of children, or years of education. On a test of ability to recall faces, women were superior (F = 4.14, p < 0.043). These findings are considered in relationship to previous research and to the predictions of evolutionary and folk psychology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11-21
Number of pages11
JournalEthology and Sociobiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1990
Externally publishedYes


  • Evolution
  • Evolutionary psychology
  • Face recognition
  • Family resemblance
  • Kin recognition
  • Natural selection
  • Photographs
  • Sex differences
  • Visual recognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • General Environmental Science
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


Dive into the research topics of 'Sex differences in ability to recognize family resemblance'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this