Kinship and descent

Lee Cronk, Drew Gerkey

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This article highlights the ways in which social anthropology and evolutionary biology converge and complement each other. This is made easier by recognizing that each discipline focuses on different but related phenomena. The evolutionary biology of kinship is about the behaviour of organisms towards their kin and the evolved psychology underlying such behaviour. The anthropology of kinship is about the socially transmitted information - in a word, culture - in which behaviour towards kin is embedded. While evolutionary biologists document and analyse nepotistic behaviour, social anthropologists seek to understand and interpret the language, values, and symbols that often distinguish the collective behavioural patterns of one society from another. The evolutionary biologist's position follows logically from the fact that most organisms cannot talk. When dealing with organisms that do have language, this position needs to be supplemented by the anthropological focus on kinship terminology, descent, and alliance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationOxford Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780191743658
ISBN (Print)9780198568308
StatePublished - Sep 18 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychology(all)


  • Alliance
  • Behaviour
  • Culture
  • Descent
  • Evolutionary biology
  • Evolved psychology
  • Kin
  • Kinship
  • Social anthropology


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