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Why it's gross to kiss your sister

Wed Feb 14, 2007 6:51 PM GMT21
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By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Researchers who wanted to find out why it is not only taboo to kiss your sister, but also disgusting, said on Wednesday they have discovered why in a discovery that challenges some basic tenets of Freudian theory.

The instinct evolved naturally and cannot be taught, John Tooby and Leda Cosmides of the University of California Santa Barbara wrote in their report in the journal Nature.

Spending time in the same household and watching your mother care for your brother or sister is all it takes. This is all subconscious, of course, reported the researchers, who worked with Debra Lieberman of the University of Hawaii.

"We went in search of a kin detection system because some of the most important theories in evolutionary biology said such a thing should exist," Cosmides said in a telephone interview.

"It should regulate both altruism and incest disgust."

Humans have an inbuilt system that does both, they found.

"This data shows that the degree to which we feel those things is governed by these cues that, for hunter-gatherers, predict whether somebody is a sibling. And it works regardless of your beliefs -- who you are told who your siblings are," she said.   Continued...