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Monoamine oxidase A gene (MAOA) predicts behavioral aggression following provocation

McDermott, R., Tingley, D., Cowden, J., Frazzetto, Giovanni and Johnson, D. D. P. (2009) Monoamine oxidase A gene (MAOA) predicts behavioral aggression following provocation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 106 (7). pp. 2118-2123. ISSN 1091-6490

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Abstract

Monoamine oxidase A gene (MAOA) has earned the nickname “warrior gene” because it has been linked to aggression in observational and survey-based studies. However, no controlled experimental studies have tested whether the warrior gene actually drives behavioral manifestations of these tendencies. We report an experiment, synthesizing work in psychology and behavioral economics, which demonstrates that aggression occurs with greater intensity and frequency as provocation is experimentally manipulated upwards, especially among low activity MAOA (MAOA-L) subjects. In this study, subjects paid to punish those they believed had taken money from them by administering varying amounts of unpleasantly hot (spicy) sauce to their opponent. There is some evidence of a main effect for genotype and some evidence for a gene by environment interaction, such that MAOA is less associated with the occurrence of aggression in a low provocation condition, but significantly predicts such behavior in a high provocation situation. This new evidence for genetic influences on aggression and punishment behavior complicates characterizations of humans as “altruistic” punishers and supports theories of cooperation that propose mixed strategies in the population. It also suggests important implications for the role of individual variance in genetic factors contributing to everyday behaviors and decisions.

Item Type: Article
Official URL: http://www.pnas.org/
Additional Information: © 2009 The National Academy of Sciences of the USA
Library of Congress subject classification: Q Science > QH Natural history > QH301 Biology
Sets: Research centres and groups > BIOS (Centre for the Study of Bioscience, Biomedicine, Biotechnology and Society)
Rights: http://www.lse.ac.uk/library/usingTheLibrary/academicSupport/OA/depositYourResearch.aspx
Date Deposited: 06 Apr 2011 11:18
URL: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/30337/

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