The Loh Down On Science

Ruthless Genes

A gene that makes us behave badly.

Hey, give greedy, ruthless people a break! This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science

saying don't blame them. It's genetic!

So say researchers at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. They were studying players of the "dictator game." In the game, people can share money with other players, or snatch it up and keep it.

The most ruthless players were more likely to have a particular version of a gene called AVPR-1-alpha. It controls the brain levels of a hormone called vasopressin. Vasopressin helps guide social behavior, including helping others.

Players with a longer version of the gene were much LESS generous than players with a shorter one.

The scientists think the shorter version may influence the location of vasopressin receptors in the brain. Short-gene players may feel a reward from giving.

Meanwhile, longer-gene carriers really could not care less.

Researchers say the ultimate proof would come from comparing the genes of a ruthless dictator with those of his identical twin. Separated at birth!

And while we're waiting, let's play cards! Except for my somewhat long AVPR-1-alpha gene, you can trust me. Really.


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