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Nolin, David A. (2011). Kin Preference and Partner Choice: Patrilineal Descent and Biological Kinship in Lamaleran Cooperative Relationships. Human Nature, 22(1-2), 156-176. PMCID: PMC3294417


This paper presents a comparison of social kinship (patrilineage) and biological kinship (genetic relatedness) in predicting cooperative relationships in two different economic contexts in the fishing and whaling village of Lamalera, Indonesia. A previous analysis (Alvard, Human Nature 14:129–163, 2003 ) of boat crew affiliation data collected in the village in 1999 found that social kinship (patrilineage) was a better predictor of crew affiliation than was genetic kinship. A replication of this analysis using similar data collected in 2006 finds the same pattern: lineage is a better predictor than genetic kinship of crew affiliation, and the two together explain little additional variance over that explained by lineage alone. However, an analogous test on food-sharing relationships finds the opposite pattern: biological kinship is a better predictor of food-sharing relationships than is social kinship. The difference between these two cooperative contexts is interpreted in terms of kin preferences that shape partner choice, and the relative autonomy with which individuals can seek to satisfy those preferences. Drawing on stable matching theory, it is suggested that unilineal descent may serve as a stable compromise among multiple individuals’ incongruent partner preferences, with patriliny favored over matriliny in the crew-formation context because it leads to higher mean degrees of relatedness among male cooperators. In the context of food-sharing, kin preferences can be pursued relatively autonomously, without the necessity of coordinating preferences with those of other households through the institution of lineage.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Human Nature


Nolin, David A.