New Article: Shor, The Westermarck Hypothesis and the Israeli Kibbutzim

Shor, Eran. “The Westermarck Hypothesis and the Israeli Kibbutzim: Reconciling Contrasting Evidence.” Archives of Sexual Behavior (early view; online first).





The case of the communal education system in the Israeli kibbutzim is often considered to provide conclusive support for Westermarck’s (1891) assertion regarding the existence of evolutionary inbreeding avoidance mechanisms in humans. However, recent studies that have gone back to the kibbutzim seem to provide contrasting evidence and reopen the discussion regarding the case of the kibbutzim and inbreeding avoidance more generally (Lieberman & Lobel 2012; Shor & Simchai, 2009). In this article, I reassess the case of the kibbutzim, reevaluating the findings and conclusions of these recent research endeavors. I argue that the differences between recent research reports largely result from conceptual and methodological differences and that, in fact, these studies provide insights that are more similar than first meets the eye. I also suggest that we must reexamine the common assumption that the kibbutzim serve as an ideal natural experiment for examining the sources of incest avoidance and the incest taboo. Finally, I discuss the implications of these studies to the longstanding debate over the Westermarck hypothesis and call for a synthetic theoretical framework that produces more precise predictions and more rigorous empirical research designs.

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