william.scherk Posted September 5, 2008 Share Posted September 5, 2008 The science blogs have been full of links to a new study of possible genetic input into trust and cooperative behaviours -- in which heritable variations in vasopressin receptors are posited to strongly influence that behaviour. (Thanks to the departed George Donnelly for his followup to MSK's posts referencing Wayne Dyer -- my hunt for relevant information began with his useful post of June 13 this year)The hormone/neurotransmitter vasopressin and its receptors are best illustrated in differences between the monogamous prairie vole and its close relative the montane vole (the prairie rodent is monogamous, the montane vole not). The hormone is believed to play a part in 'communication, aggression, sexual behavior, and social memory.' "In monogamous species, such as the prairie vole, vasopressin facilitates affiliation, pairbonding, and paternal care, whereas in the closely related montane vole, which is polygamous, vasopressin fails to influence social behavior." -- from the 1999 ScienceDaily story that features the breakthrough receptor research -- a transgenic vole whose pair-bonding behaviour was transformed by genetic manipulation.The research that was engendered by the vole experiments has ramified hugely, involving vasopressin receptors and aggression, trust, cooperation, and even altruism.**In the recent work, the standard socio-economic experiment "the dictator game" has been married with tests of genes responsible for vasopressin receptors. For those interested in the intersection of altruism/genetic research, some intriguing findings -- below is the abstract to the study which just appeared in the Public Library of Science (full text here):Heritability of cooperative behavior in the trust gameAlthough laboratory experiments document cooperative behaviorin humans, little is known about the extent to which individualdifferences in cooperativeness result from genetic and environmentalvariation. In this article, we report the results of twoindependently conceived and executed studies of monozygoticand dizygotic twins, one in Sweden and one in the United States.The results from these studies suggest that humans are endowedwith genetic variation that influences the decision to invest, and toreciprocate investment, in the classic trust game. Based on thesefindings, we urge social scientists to take seriously the idea thatdifferences in peer and parental socialization are not the onlyforces that influence variation in cooperative behavior.Strangely (or not so strangely) there is already a $99.00 genetic test offered to sort out the ruthless, selfish suitor from the more benevolent one:Ruthlessness/bonding gene testYou will receive 1 mouth swab and collection tube per test, in a return package, along with specific instructions on how to collect the samples. Ask your fiancée, significant other, business partner and/or elected representative to get these genetic tests done as soon as possible. This is for informational purposes only and is not a medical diagnosis. Consult with your doctor. Researchers theorized that the AVPR1a linked to pro-social and anti-social behavior in prairie voles might be a factor in human behavior. They discovered that certain genotypes in the promoter region of the AVPR1a gene corresponded with "Benevolent behavior" and "Universalistic behavior" on various personality tests and that those same genotypes corresponded to altruistic behavior in a game they called "the dictator game". These results were published in the journal Genes, Brain and Behavior. I am rather skeptical that this test will deliver reliable match-making information, but the whole suite of research I link to is a buffet for thought about the Objectivish bugaboos of altruism, social metaphysics and selfishness . . . _______________________________** for a flavour of the ramifications, check out the reference list accompanying the paper Neural Substrates of Decision-making in Economic Games. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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