Feather together:
Occasionally someone actually mentions the obvious.  In this case the context is a study done (work done by Noel and Nyhan Soc. Networks 33, 211 2011 as reviewed in SCIENCE by “-B” Not Contagious After All vol. 333 no. 6046 August 26, 2011 page 1072) clarifying social contagion.  Will being around lonely fat people make you get lonely and fat? 

Previous work suggested that such things might be catchy, like yawning.  But the new work suggests that a previously known effect had been understated.  The effect called “homophily” is that people are more likely to make friends with people they resemble, and more importantly such friendships are more stable than those between people who are different.

We live in a society where most marriages end in divorce.  Than can’t be making people happier.  Divorce is clearly a case, well usually, in which initial attraction fades, and the new study indicates that this is more common if people are different.

Well you are on average going to resemble your cousins more than you are going to resemble people in the community at large.  So it seems reasonable to suggest that marriages between cousins are likely to last longer than marriages between strangers. 

Of course that would be exceptionally difficult to prove, but I am sure there are sociologists with the skills to give it a whirl.  Since nature presents us with a choice – has always presented us with a choice – of marry kin or die out, it is pleasant to think that this could lead to a more stable and happy community irrespective of the fertility issue.

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