Heritability of Cooperative Behavior in the Trust Game

Department of Economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 50 Memorial Drive, Cambridge, MA 02142, USA.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Impact Factor: 9.67). 04/2008; 105(10):3721-6. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0710069105
Source: PubMed


Although laboratory experiments document cooperative behavior in humans, little is known about the extent to which individual differences in cooperativeness result from genetic and environmental variation. In this article, we report the results of two independently conceived and executed studies of monozygotic and dizygotic twins, one in Sweden and one in the United States. The results from these studies suggest that humans are endowed with genetic variation that influences the decision to invest, and to reciprocate investment, in the classic trust game. Based on these findings, we urge social scientists to take seriously the idea that differences in peer and parental socialization are not the only forces that influence variation in cooperative behavior.

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    • "Cesarini et al. (2009a) conducted a modified dictator game that concerns altruism toward unknown people and found that individual variation in responses was explained by 31% of genetic factors and 69% of non-shared environmental influences. Cesarini et al. (2008) have conducted trust game experiments in the US and Sweden. The game measures the level of trust and the level of trustworthiness of the participants. "
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    ABSTRACT: Prosociality is one of the most distinctive features of human beings but there are individual differences in cooperative behavior. Employing the twin method, we examined the heritability of cooperativeness and its outcomes on public goods games using a strategy method. In two experiments (Study 1 and Study 2), twin participants were asked to indicate (1) how much they would contribute to a group when they did not know how much the other group members were contributing, and (2) how much they would contribute if they knew the contributions of others. Overall, the heritability estimates were relatively small for each type of decision, but heritability was greater when participants knew that the others had made larger contributions. Using registered decisions in Study 2, we conducted seven Monte Carlo simulations to examine genetic and environmental influences on the expected game payoffs. For the simulated one-shot game, the heritability estimates were small, comparable to those of game decisions. For the simulated iterated games, we found that the genetic influences first decreased, then increased as the numbers of iterations grew. The implication for the evolution of individual differences in prosociality is discussed.
    Frontiers in Psychology 04/2015; 6:373. DOI:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00373 · 2.80 Impact Factor
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    • "Indeed, BPD is much more heritable than usually believed (Torgersen et al. 2012). Furthermore, the findings from twin studies of trust and ultimatum game performance (likely to be related to the PD performance ) also suggest quite strong genetic underpinning (Wallace et al. 2007; Cesarini et al. 2008). "
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    ABSTRACT: Borderline personality disorder (BPD) and bipolar disorder (BD) have overlapping clinical presentations and symptoms - sources of persistent clinical confusion. Game-theory can characterize how social function might be sub-optimal in the two disorders and move the field beyond the anecdotal description of clinical history. Here, we tested the hypothesis that BPD and BD can be distinguished on the basis of diminished reciprocal altruism in iterated Prisoner's Dilemma (PD) games. Twenty females with BPD, 20 females with euthymic BD and 20 healthy (non-clinical) females, matched for age and cognitive ability, were assessed for Axis-I and personality disorders, and completed psychometric measures of state affect, impulsivity and hostility. Participants completed two iterated PD games and a test of gaze-cueing. In the PD games, BPD participants failed to show statistically stable preferences to cooperate with social partners (playing tit-for-tat) and made significantly fewer cooperative responses compared to BD or controls (ANOVA main effect p = 0.03, post-hoc Tukey p < 0.05 for both comparisons). BPD participants were also less likely to sustain cooperation following experiences involving mutual cooperation than the other groups. Neither BPD nor BD participants demonstrated impairments in shifting visual attention on the basis of other peoples' gaze. These data indicate that BPD is (selectively) associated with difficulties in establishing, and then maintaining, reciprocal cooperation, involving altruism. These difficulties are not seen in euthymic BD. Our data support the differentiation of BPD from BD and offer fresh insights into the social difficulties experienced by individuals with diagnoses of BPD.
    Psychological Medicine 02/2015; 45(08):1-10. DOI:10.1017/S0033291714002475 · 5.94 Impact Factor
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    • "In this sense, our closest living evolutionary relatives appear to be more rational than we are (Jensen, Call, and Tomasello 2007). Variation in modern-day human cooperative behavior is partly heritable (Cesarini et al. 2008; Schroeder, McElreath, and Nettle 2013) and partly attributable to the matrix of social and cultural norms in which an individual grows up in (Henrich et al. 2004, 2005; Herrmann, Thöni, and Gächter 2008; Holm and Danielson 2005). There is strong evidence that gene-culture coevolution shaped our species-distinct pattern of prosocial psychology (Chudeck and Henrich 2011; Laland et al. 2010; Richerson and Boyd 2005; Richerson et al. 2010). "
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    ABSTRACT: Using the dictator game as a measure of prosocial behavior, we combined data from developmental studies from 14 different sites around the world (N = 1,601). We fitted several growth models to the developmental trajectories that varied in their complexity and levels of prosociality. The rationale we used here assumes we can infer something about where all children start on a generous-selfish continuum by looking at the shape of developmental change. We found the model that best explained the variation in developmental trajectories began with a sharing value of ~15%, more toward the selfish end of the spectrum. We also found tentative evidence that the rate at which these prosocial attitudes develop is dependent on the norm of the society. Essentially, if the adult sharing norm is higher, as it is in non-Western societies, then the child needs to develop at a quicker rate to reach this norm by adulthood. Results are discussed with reference to whether the history of human evolution has left the content of a norm underspecified while leaving the cognitive architecture in place to acquire it—a process that we argue is analogous to imprinting.
    Current Anthropology 10/2014; 550(02). DOI:10.1086/679254 · 2.93 Impact Factor
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