Many studies have been published recently linking oxytocin to social behaviours such as trust, altruism, and even sexual attractiveness. Now, researchers at an Israeli university have identified a link between such behaviours and a specific variation in a person’s DNA that acts as a brain receptor for oxytocin.
The Hebrew University researchers evaluated altruism using a game that included real payoffs. Subjects made decisions regarding a series of social dilemmas concerning the distribution of money for themselves and another player and were rated as either prosocial (looking to maximize joint outcomes), or proself (looking to maximize their individual outcomes). The researchers found that individuals who carried a simple variant (G rather than T) in one DNA letter located in the oxytocin receptor were much more likely to share their endowment with another player and to prefer prosocial outcomes.