Human Nature

, Volume 18, Issue 4, pp 355–364 | Cite as

Neglected Natural Experiments Germane to the Westermarck Hypothesis

The Karo Batak and the Oneida Community
  • Daniel M. T. Fessler


Natural experiments wherein preferred marriage partners are co-reared play a central role in testing the Westermarck hypothesis. This paper reviews two such hitherto largely neglected experiments. The case of the Karo Batak is outlined in hopes that other scholars will procure additional information; the case of the Oneida community is examined in detail. Genealogical records reveal that, despite practicing communal child-rearing, marriages did take place within Oneida. However, when records are compared with first-person accounts, it becomes clear that, owing to age- and gender-segregating practices, most endogamously marrying individuals probably did not share a history of extensive propinquity.


Westermarck hypothesis Oneida community Karo Batak Inbreeding avoidance 



I thank Joan Silk for encouragement, Jennifer Fessler for stimulating discussions, and four anonymous reviewers for helpful feedback.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUCLALos AngelesUSA

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