Human Nature

, Volume 10, Issue 4, pp 399–414 | Cite as

Perceived crime severity and biological kinship

  • Vernon L. QuinseyEmail author
  • Martin L. Lalumière
  • Matthew Querée
  • Jennifer K. McNaughton


Two predictions concerning the perceived severity of crimes can be derived from evolutionary theory. The first, arising from the theory of inclusive fitness, is that crimes in general should be viewed as more serious to the degree that the victim is genetically related to the perpetrator. The second, arising from the deleterious effects of inbreeding depression, is that heterosexual sexual coercion should be perceived as more serious the closer the genetic relationship of victim and perpetrator, particularly when the victim is a female of fertile age. Two hundred and thirty university students estimated the magnitude of the severity of brief crime descriptions in three separate studies. In the first two, the biological kinship of victim and perpetrator was varied, and in the third, the hypothetical genetic relatedness of the subject and the fictitious victim was varied. All three studies found the linear relationships between biological kinship and perceived crime severity predicted by theory.

Key words

Crime severity Inbreeding Inclusive fitness Kinship relatedness Nepotism 


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Copyright information

© Walter de Gruyter, Inc 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Vernon L. Quinsey
    • 1
    Email author
  • Martin L. Lalumière
    • 1
  • Matthew Querée
    • 1
  • Jennifer K. McNaughton
    • 1
  1. 1.Psychology DepartmentQueen’s UniversityKingston

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