Human Nature 20 (1):80-92 (2009)

The role of olfaction in kin recognition and parental investment is documented in many mammalian/vertebrate species. Research on humans, however, has only focused on whether parents are able to recognize their children by smell, not whether humans use these cues for investment decisions. Here we show that fathers exhibit more affection and attachment and fewer ignoring behaviors toward children whose smell they can identify than toward those whose smell they cannot recognize. Thus, olfaction might serve as a means for males to determine their genetic relatedness to purported offspring. We also demonstrate that mothers’ olfactory recognition and hedonistic ratings are linked with the use of physical punishment. Mothers report using more punishment with children whose odor they cannot recognize and less with children whose odor they rated as more pleasant. These results provide the first preliminary evidence in humans that olfactory cues may guide parents in the allocation of care
Keywords Parental investment  Kin recognition  Olfaction
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DOI 10.1007/s12110-009-9058-4
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