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Human behavior

Dictator Gene Shows Correlation to Selfish Behavior

Thursday, September 25, 2008 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: human behavior, health news, Natural News


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(NaturalNews) Researchers from Hebrew University in Jerusalem say they have discovered a correlation between selfish behavior and the length of a certain gene, known as AVPR1a.

Researchers recruited 200 student volunteers to participate in an exercise that the researchers dubbed the "Dictator Game," although that name was not revealed to the participants.

Volunteers were paired off into a "dictator" and a "receiver," known as "A" and "B" to the participants. People in the dictator group were given 50 shekels ($14) and told to share as much or as little of it with the receiver as they wanted. They were also told that they would never meet the receiver.

Approximately one-third of people in the dictator group chose to give away 50 percent of the money, 18 percent chose to keep all of it and 6 percent chose to give it all away.

The researchers then compared the behavior of the dictators to the length of their AVPR1a, as determined from a DNA sample taken before the game began. They selected that gene in particular to examine because it is known to be linked to the production of vasopressin receptors in the brain.

Vasopressin is a hormone that has been linked to altruism and prosocial behavior.

There was no difference between men and women in generosity, but a significant correlation was found with AVPR1a: People with a shorter gene were more likely to keep more of the money.

Lead researcher Richard Ebstein suggested that the distribution of vasopressin receptors in the brains of people with the shorter gene might be such that they feel less happy when doing things for others than people with the longer gene do.

Although the researchers have linked the study's results to dictatorial behavior, there is no evidence that any dictators throughout history have possessed short AVPR1a genes.

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