Cooperative Genes

Research Area: Genetics of Human Social Behavior

Human social traits present a level of complexity without precedents for any species in the history of our planet. Twin and family studies have contributed with evidence throughout the years to understand how eminently human characteristics such as economic behavior, love, music, trust, altruism and empathy are heritable, and partially hardwired. During our evolution, group living has posed many challenges as it progressively increases in complexity. The development of other complex social skills, such as social memory or Theory of Mind, has also greatly influenced the evolutionary path of the human species, and as any heritable, evolutionary relevant trait, imprinting the instructions for the physiological root of their existence in our DNA.

The last decade has witnessed the emergence of scientific efforts that aim to account for the genetic foundations of social behavior. Such efforts try to contribute to the understanding of the underlying genetic structures involved in molding and/or modulating our social traits. This incipient discipline focuses on the correlation between variations in genes empirically related to certain phenotypes of interest. For instance, genes such as the Oxytocin Receptor gene (OXTR), or the Arginine-Vasopressin Receptor gene (AVPR) have been demonstrated to have a significant role in modulating a fairly wide range of social behaviors. Evidence suggests a neurological interaction between AVP and OT in modulating and enhancing neural pathways associated to these behaviors.

Current Project: Cooperative Genes

In this project, experimental subjects will participate in a Public Good game and also provide a sample of genetic material. Using the strategy method we will be able to categorize individuals according to the implemented strategy in the game as conditional cooperators, unconditional cooperators or free-riders; and, thus, study the correlation between the OXTR and AVPR genes and different forms of cooperation in a collective action problem.

Grant: Anillo CONICYT SOC-1101; Interfacultad DINV, UDD.

External collaborators: Gabriela Repetto, Centro de Genética Humana, Facultad de Medicina-Clínica Alemana, Universidad del Desarrollo


Lab Sessions in Social Genetics

Set of sessions organized between Centro de Genética Humana and CICS in order to facilitate the interdisciplinary work between team members.

PDFA premier in Human Genetics (slides in spanish)
PDF A premier in Game Theory (slides in spanish)
PDFGenetic basis of Social Human Behavior (slides in spanish)

Relevant prior work

Rodriguez-Sickert, Guzmán & Cárdenas (2007). Institutions influence preferences: Evidence from a common pool resource experiment . Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization 67(1): 215-27, 2008.