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SNP on OXTR Impacts Behavioral Prosociality Displays

Last Updated: November 17, 2011.

Individuals homozygous for the G allele on rs53576 single nucleotide polymorphism of the oxytocin receptor gene are observed to be more prosocial than carriers of the A allele, according to a study published online Nov. 14 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

THURSDAY, Nov. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Individuals homozygous for the G allele on rs53576 single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) of the oxytocin receptor (OXTR) gene are observed to be more prosocial than carriers of the A allele, according to a study published online Nov. 14 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Aleksandr Kogan, Ph.D., from the University of Toronto, and colleagues investigated whether individual variations in the rs53576 SNP of the OXTR gene predict nonverbal behavioral displays of prosociality, and whether these behaviors are easily detectable by outside observers. A thin-slicing methodology was used to study the OXTR gene of targets selected from an earlier study of dating couples. In total, 23 video clips with the target's romantic partner telling the target about a personal suffering were shown to 116 observers. Each observer viewed every video clip, and indicated whether the target's behavior was trustworthy, compassionate, and kind (on a seven-point scale). To identify which signal behavior observers based their judgments on, trained coders coded each video clip for four behavioral cues involved in the prosocial response.

The investigators found that observers indicated that targets who were homozygous for the G allele were more prosocial than A allele carriers. Variations in the expression of affiliative cues completely accounted for these variations.

"Individual differences in rs53576 are associated with behavioral manifestations of prosociality, which ultimately guide the judgments others make about the individual," the authors write.

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