The Oxytocin Receptor (OXTR) Contributes to Prosocial Fund Allocations in the Dictator Game and the Social Value Orientations Task

Department of Psychology, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel.
PLoS ONE (Impact Factor: 3.23). 05/2009; 4(5):e5535. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0005535
Source: PubMed


Economic games observe social decision making in the laboratory that involves real money payoffs. Previously we have shown that allocation of funds in the Dictator Game (DG), a paradigm that illustrates costly altruistic behavior, is partially determined by promoter-region repeat region variants in the arginine vasopressin 1a receptor gene (AVPR1a). In the current investigation, the gene encoding the related oxytocin receptor (OXTR) was tested for association with the DG and a related paradigm, the Social Values Orientation (SVO) task.
Association (101 male and 102 female students) using a robust-family based test between 15 single tagging SNPs (htSNPs) across the OXTR was demonstrated with both the DG and SVO. Three htSNPs across the gene region showed significant association with both of the two games. The most significant association was observed with rs1042778 (p = 0.001). Haplotype analysis also showed significant associations for both DG and SVO. Following permutation test adjustment, significance was observed for 2-5 locus haplotypes (p<0.05). A second sample of 98 female subjects was subsequently and independently recruited to play the dictator game and was genotyped for the three significant SNPs found in the first sample. The rs1042778 SNP was shown to be significant for the second sample as well (p = 0.004, Fisher's exact test).
The demonstration that genetic polymorphisms for the OXTR are associated with human prosocial decision making converges with a large body of animal research showing that oxytocin is an important social hormone across vertebrates including Homo sapiens. Individual differences in prosocial behavior have been shown by twin studies to have a substantial genetic basis and the current investigation demonstrates that common variants in the oxytocin receptor gene, an important element of mammalian social circuitry, underlie such individual differences.

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    • "For example, observers rated GG individuals as more pro-social and affiliative in their nonverbal cues (e.g., making eye contact, smiling, nodding their head) than individuals with an A allele when watching romantic partners engage in a conversation where one partner shared an experience of suffering (Kogan et al., 2011). These genotypic variations have also been shown to be important predictors of individual differences when investigating pro-social behaviors in decision-making tasks (Israel et al., 2009). Rodrigues et al. (2009) suggest that genetic variations in oxytocin receptors may also be related to the processing of emotional and social cues, two domains important in individuals' decisions to disclose. "
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    ABSTRACT: The present study explores the associations among allelic variation in the oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR), attachment security, and predictors of disclosure. Using the risk revelation model as a guiding framework, risk assessments, communication efficacy, and closeness were investigated. Two-hundred four participants provided saliva samples (from which DNA was extracted) and completed surveys addressing aspects of disclosure, attachment, and relationship characteristics. The results revealed significant interactions between OXTR and attachment security on risk assessments and closeness. Insecurely attached individuals showed greater variability in their assessments of the risks of disclosing and feelings of closeness based on their genotype compared to individuals who were securely attached. Insecurely attached individuals with a known “risk allele” (i.e., the A allele) were more likely to see risks to disclosing to their romantic partners and rated closeness with their partners lower than those with the alternative genotype (i.e., the GG genotype). These findings and their implications for theories of disclosure are discussed.
    Communication Monographs 11/2015; 82(1):113-133. DOI:10.1080/03637751.2014.993544 · 2.54 Impact Factor
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    • "Generally, one important modulator of the willingness to cooperate seems to be sensitivity to hormonal variation, as indicated by studies on the genetic variations of hormone receptors (e.g., Israel et al., 2009; Tost et al., 2010). "
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    ABSTRACT: Social Value Orientation (SVO) refers to an individual’s preference for the division of resources between the self and another person. Since evidence suggests that hormones influence several facets of human social behavior, we asked whether SVO might fluctuate across the female menstrual cycle. Using self-report data obtained in two independent online studies, we show that cooperative preferences, as indexed by SVO, are indeed significantly more prosocial in the early follicular compared to the midluteal phase in naturally ovulating women. Furthermore, when estimating hormonal variations from norm data, we found estradiol, but not progesterone or testosterone, to be a significant predictor of SVO across the menstrual cycle in both studies, with a negative correlation. Our findings provide evidence that the willingness to cooperate varies across the natural female menstrual cycle and highlight the potential of investigating psychological effects of ovarian sex hormones.
    Judgment and decision making 09/2015; 10(5):400-406. · 2.62 Impact Factor
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    • "As SRY is a transcription factor linked to the Ychromosome and hence exclusively expressed in males, we hypothesized that if ss1388116472 is of functional importance, and it will have male-specific effects on social traits. Based on previous research that described a link between OXTR and affiliation (Lucht et al., 2009), social bonding (Walum et al., 2012) and prosociality (Israel et al., 2009) in humans, we hypothesized that male chimpanzees will show an effect of OXTR genotype on two previously established personality components: sociability and positive affect (Koski, 2011). "
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    ABSTRACT: The importance of genes in regulating phenotypic variation of personality traits in humans and animals is becoming increasingly apparent in recent studies. Here we focus on variation in the vasopressin receptor gene 1a (Avpr1a) and oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) and their effects on social personality traits in chimpanzees. We combine newly available genetic data on Avpr1a and OXTR allelic variation of 62 captive chimpanzees with individual variation in personality, based on behavioral assessments. Our study provides support for the positive association of the Avpr1a promoter region, in particular the presence of DupB, and sociability in chimpanzees. This complements findings of previous studies on adolescent chimpanzees and studies that assessed personality using questionnaire data. In contrast, no significant associations were found for the single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) ss1388116472 of the OXTR and any of the personality components. Most importantly, our study provides additional evidence for the regulatory function of the 5' promoter region of Avpr1a on social behavior and its evolutionary stable effect across species, including rodents, chimpanzees and humans. Although it is generally accepted that complex social behavior is regulated by a combination of genes, the environment and their interaction, our findings highlight the importance of candidate genes with large effects on behavioral variation. Copyright © 2015. Published by Elsevier Inc.
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