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.
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The first and second studies are based upon the third and fourth authors’ Honour’s theses conducted at Queen’s University. The third study was supported by a Research Fellowship awarded by the Correctional Service of Canada to the second author. This research also was partially supported by a contract between the first author and the Kingston Psychiatric Hospital.
Vern Quinsey received his Ph.D. in experimental psychology from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1970. He was first a psychologist and later Director of Research at the maximum security Oak Ridge Division of the Mental Health Centre in Penetanguishene, Ontario. In 1988, he moved to Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, where he is a professor of psychology and psychiatry and associated with the forensic/correctional areas of both departments.
Martin Lalumière obtained his M.Ps. (1990) from the Université de Montréal and his Ph.D. (1995) from Queen’s University. He is an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto and a research psychologist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. His research interests include sexual aggression, sexual deviance, psychopathy, developmental instability, birth order, and mating strategies.
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Quinsey, V.L., Lalumière, M.L., Querée, M. et al. Perceived crime severity and biological kinship. Hum Nat 10, 399–414 (1999). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12110-999-1009-6