You Think You (And Your Parents) Are Hot

By Allison Bond | July 28, 2010 5:53 pm

mirrorIs the taboo against incest really just a psychological device to keep us from people we subconsciously find attractive? Could be, since apparently, these hotties are our parents, and even ourselves, according to research published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

Studies have shown that people are more turned on by photographs of faces morphed with their own or a parent’s. More recently, when subjects were subliminally primed with a photos of a parent, they found the subsequent photos of faces more attractive than photos when they weren’t primed. Subjects also found photos morphed with their own faces more attractive than others. But if they were told that a morphed face contained their own image, they ranked that one as less attractive than others. (Wouldn’t want to look narcissistic, would they?)

Wired explains:

“All three experiments support the Freudian idea that we have subconscious mechanisms that make us attracted to features that remind us of our own, and that cultural taboos against incest exist to override that primitive drive….“People appear to be drawn to others who resemble their kin or themselves,” said [lead author] R. Chris Fraley. “It is possible, therefore, as Freud suggested, that incest taboos exist to counter this primitive tendency.”

Of course, a theory such as this one is basically impossible to prove or disprove. Still, it’s food for thought, although it might not be the best topic to bring up at your next family meal.

Related content:
Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: Freud’s take on doctors treating their own children is (surprise!) disturbing.
Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: You might want to put a condom on that symbolic penis

Image: flickr / thecameo

MORE ABOUT: Freud, incest, taboo
  • Brian Too

    Wasn’t this already known?

    I don’t know where, but I’m pretty sure I’ve read that on average, mate selection is positively correlated with the physical characteristics of your parents. While you don’t want to sleep with your parents, you do want to sleep with someone who is somewhat like your parents. On average, your mileage may vary, etc.

  • Rhacodactylus

    This is interesting, and I’m sure there is a connection to a search for similar features, but how much of this could be attributed to the Mere Exposure Effect, I mean in terms of faces we are exposed to, our parents and our own would be number 1,2 and 3, at least for the formative years of our life.

  • Razib Khan

    check crossracial adoptees.

  • Joanna Cake

    I find my kids’ faces appealing but I think that’s more to do with familiarity than attraction, so wouldn’t that be the same reasoning for subconsciously selecting mates who look like our parents?

    Here’s my take on the real reason why we should not marry people who resemble our close family.

  • Antoine

    Parents have similar faces.
    Morphing between parent face will be more symetric than between stranger faces.
    Symetry is the best indicator of beauty in a face.
    Therefore this result could have been predicted.
    Incest would not be the same as the face of the child is not a real average between the parents.
    Or is there something I miss ?


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