Individuals who are homozygous for the G allele of the rs53576 SNP of the oxytocin receptor (OXTR) gene tend to be more prosocial than carriers of the A allele. However, little is known about how these differences manifest behaviorally and whether they are readily detectable by outside observers, both critical questions in theoretical accounts of prosociality. In the present study, we used thin-slicing methodology to test the hypotheses that (i) individual differences in rs53576 genotype predict how prosocial observers judge target individuals to be on the basis of brief observations of behavior, and (ii) that variation in targets’ nonverbal displays of affiliative cues would account for these judgment differences. In line with predictions, we found that individuals homozygous for the G allele were judged to be more prosocial than carriers of the A allele. These differences were completely accounted for by variations in the expression of affiliative cues. Thus, individual differences in rs53576 are associated with behavioral manifestations of prosociality, which ultimately guide the judgments others make about the individual.
Monday, December 05, 2011
A gene that makes you appear to be kinder...
Kogan and colleagues at the Univ. of Toronto have examined some behavioral consequences of variations of the gene that codes for the receptor for the hormone oxytocin, since high levels of oxytocin are believed to make people more sociable. Volunteers (116) were asked to watch 23 brief silent videos that showed people with GG, GA, or AA versions of the gene responding to their partner telling them a story of personal suffering, and rate how kind and trustworthy the person in the video appeared to be. Those with the homozygous GG version of the oxytocin receptor gene were judged to be kinder than those with GA or AA versions, apparently because those with GG variations used significantly more non-verbal empathetic gestures in their storytelling such as smiling and nodding. Here is the abstract: