Ladies, have you ever felt like you just knew someone? You’ve seen a female out on the street or at a party or maybe a girl you sit next to in class and you feel like in some way the two of you are connected?…But, how? She could be your sister.
Women can consistently sniff out their sisters, deciphering who they are from their friends and strangers without being aware of any actual difference in odor, according to Dr. Johan Lundstrom, a neuropsychologist at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia.
Through cues of sight and smell we can figure out who we are related to, Lundstrom says. This phenomenon is known as “Kin Recognition.”
I must admit, the science behind it all is quite in depth and very “scientific.” The process of identifying someone as your kin involves “Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA)” or “Pheromones”—signals chemically transmitted from one being to another.
Basiclly, in layman's terms, this is what it boils down to: When we smell someone else, we compare that scent to our own body odor—in order to have something similar to someone else we need to have a comparison.
Think of it this way. If you sniff your own armpit then smell someone else and the two smells are similar you might think you’re related to that person.
Another example Lundstrom used: if the men in your family all have green beards, which is uncommon, and you saw a man on South St. with a green beard you might think the two of you are somehow related.
So, through “Self Recognition,” comparing our traits with the traits of others in order to identify your family, and HLA signals you are able to identify your family (“Kin Recognition”).
Lundstrom’s study shows how our brain can pick up those HLA signals.
Lundstrom and his team at Monell Chemical Senses Center took 15 pairs of sisters. He collected three different body odors: a sister, a friend and a stranger. Then, he asked one of the sisters from each of the 15 pairs involved to identify each of the odors, telling him which odor was her sister, which odor was her friend and which odor was the stranger’s.
Eight times out of nine, the woman was able to identify her sister’s odor correctly. When Lundstrom asked each woman how confident she was with her answers they rated themselves as guessing.
Why is "Kin Recognition" important? Well, there’s this idea that individuals favor their family over everyone else (A.K.A “Nepotism”). So, it’s only natural we want to know who it is we’re related to.
Also, there’s this illegal thing in our country called “incest.” So, by identifying who we are related to through kin recognition then we can avoid mating with members of our family.