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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    • "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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