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Biotech Science

Possible Monogamy Gene Found In People 440

Posted by kdawson
from the walking-the-line dept.
Calopteryx sends in a New Scientist summary of research from Sweden pointing toward the existence of a gene that influences monogamy in men. (The article doesn't mention women, and the study subjects were all men at least 5 years into a heterosexual relationship.) "There has been speculation about the role of the hormone vasopressin in humans ever since we discovered that variations in where receptors for the hormone are expressed makes prairie voles strictly monogamous but meadow voles promiscuous; vasopressin is related to the 'cuddle chemical' oxytocin. Now it seems variations in a section of the gene coding for a vasopressin receptor in people help to determine whether men are serial commitment-phobes or devoted husbands."
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Possible Monogamy Gene Found In People

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  • by Kingrames (858416) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @02:58PM (#24847761)
    The pussy gene.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @03:32PM (#24848475)
      The pussy gene is typically found in people with XX chromosomes and prominently displayed in XXX movies.
    • by Sponge Bath (413667) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @03:48PM (#24848719)

      Of course.
      Those in monogamous relationships get sex on demand and home cooked meals!

      All my married friends tell me that.

      • by KGIII (973947) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @04:03PM (#24848959) Journal

        They lie to you. Oh man do they lie. They probably do it so that you will join them in their misery, misery loves company and all that.

        Anyhow, now that there's a gene for it and I obviously don't have it, I have a scientific excuse. ;)

        • by Crazy Taco (1083423) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @06:40PM (#24851675)

          They lie to you. Oh man do they lie. They probably do it so that you will join them in their misery, misery loves company and all that.

          Actually it's not a lie. Like everything, there are of course exceptions, so I'm sure some people do lie, but I get all of the above. And my wife is wonderful. I love being married. So yeah, if you wanna delude yourself out of the fun, go ahead... but consider the fact that you haven't tried being married, so how would you know the truth? Married men are inherently credible when talking about this issue, and unmarried men are without credibility, for the following reason: all us married men have been both single and married, and I personally can say that after trying both, marriage is far superior.

          Anyhow, now that there's a gene for it and I obviously don't have it, I have a scientific excuse. ;)

          Sorry, but as a creature of reason and logic (which your appeal to science shows that you are), you are still without excuse. Anyone who claims reason has the tools necessary to rise above base animal instincts and live differently. Whether this alleged gene actually is proven to be true or not, the "serial non-commiters" still have no excuse to use the women around them.

          As humans, we have to rise above this non-commitment, because regardless of a specific gene, societies in which commitments are made and upheld are inherently more stable and peaceful than those in which no one can trust anyone's word. As humans, our goal should be to form stable societies that are best for us, not to follow our genetic dispositions.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by zobier (585066)

            As humans, we have to rise above this non-commitment, because regardless of a specific gene, societies in which commitments are made and upheld are inherently more stable and peaceful than those in which no one can trust anyone's word. As humans, our goal should be to form stable societies that are best for us, not to follow our genetic dispositions.

            Except that we're talking about monogamy, not commitment. It is possible to be in a committed relationship, have sexual relations with more than one person and not be dishonest about it. Since we're talking about logic, reason and whatnot. It is also quite possible to have a stable and trusting society where this behaviour is not taboo.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by jythie (914043)

            Though what this piece did NOT go into is the differnce between people who can't commit, people who are monogamous, and people who are poly

            Unfortunatly researchers usually don't bother to figure out the differnce between group 1 and group 3, and in fact many who display group 1 behavior are actually group 3 and are QUITE capable of long term commited relationships,.. when the relationships are poly structured rather then mono.

            So the problem isn't 'rising above non-commitment', but one of finding out what co

      • by OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @04:23PM (#24849319) Homepage

        Or rather : in different circumstances monogamy may provide an evolutionary advantage. If you intend to wage unceasing war ("live off the land" (and the passersby)), for example, monogamy would be a bad idea, since lots of men will die, leaving behind women, even though some limit would be good (say you expect 50% of the men to be involved in war, then you should allow 2 women to one man, if you expect between 75 and 90% of your society to be dedicated to war, then 4 women to 1 man seems appropriate (and obviously only to men who can afford not to be on the frontlines, who should basically stay away from women, except the occasional rape of a succesful raid) (then again, in war, are limits like these really going to be respected ?). If you allow without limit (or allow polygamy + concubines) then clearly you expect to do nothing else than warfare, and marriage means nothing except for inheritance.

        In peace, you'd need to prevent men remaining behind alone without partner (because for every extra woman one man has, another has to do without, 4 women to one man would become 75% of men without contact with women in extremis, realistically, say 50% of men, 4 women + unlimited (and exclusive) concubines would mean something like 999/1000 of men without partner, in some cultures that is normal, or was normal not too long ago), as that will certainly not be helpful in helping them build instead of destroying society, therefore in a peaceful setting, you'd want monogamy.

        The fact that genes start expressing it is not very surprising. Polygamous cultures are known for being more than a little agressive, and genes are how humans adapt to their environment. If the environment or the culture changes to be less suitable for agriculture (or the culture doesn't know, or incorrectly conducts agriculture, e.g. predatory agriculture, or not doing anything about overpopulation, or ...) the genes will adapt to become less monogamous.

        If raiding is basically impossible, for whatever reason, building things will become important, and monogamous relationships become an evolutionary advantage. Certainly after 10 generations the effects will be very noticeable.

        Since this gene will very much influence how agressive people are against "other tribes", it is one of the prime parameters that will determine the layout of the resulting society, and may introduce all sorts of limits (e.g. agressive societies will never have any population density for obvious reasons, which can easily translate in a very low maximum population limit)

      • by Tetsujin (103070) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @05:26PM (#24850533) Homepage Journal

        If I had one of those monogamy genes, I'd want to help it thrive - so I'd go find a bunch o' girls and get 'em pregnant...

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by megaditto (982598)

      You joke now, but once they come up with a DIY test kit for "multiple cunt personality" genetic, guess what type of men will get all the pussy?

  • by JohnHegarty (453016) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @02:58PM (#24847771) Homepage

    Anyone want to start suggesting a relevant text for the update to the americans with disabilities act

    • by Adriax (746043) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @03:17PM (#24848177)

      "No really babe, I've got a mutation in my monogamy gene. I HAVE to sleep around, or I'll die."

    • by Gat0r30y (957941)
      Wait, for the poor dudes who can't sleep around right?
    • You know, we may joke about this, but it's serious. People who are socially inept are certainly discriminated against, but the legislatures and Congress don't seem to be in the same hurry to pass laws against such discrimination. Which in turn, is due to a public that is indifferent to the suffering of such people. And no, it's not something that's easy to change: people are are socially *competent* don't realize that some things come naturally to them but not others.

      (And yes, I know you can say that bei

  • by TXISDude (1171607) * on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @03:00PM (#24847813)
    I see a whole brave new world of testing before pre-nuptials . . . But, if I have a defective gene, will that qualify me as handicapped under something like ADA? Will there be a high risk pool that I will be forced to "date" out of? So many questions . . .
  • by MyLongNickName (822545) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @03:00PM (#24847815) Journal

    which renders someone unable to get any at all.

  • by starglider29a (719559) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @03:01PM (#24847839)
    In the early 60's we got birth control pills, which (some say) facilitated women being promiscuous. Now, we have 'husband control pills'

    What happens if we miss a day? Do we take two then next and use alternate husband control methods. -- Sarcasm transmits across TCP/IP as well as it does other media
    • by thermian (1267986) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @03:24PM (#24848333)

      In the early 60's we got birth control pills, which (some say) facilitated women being promiscuous. Now, we have 'husband control pills'

      What happens if we miss a day? Do we take two then next and use alternate husband control methods.

      Well to be safe you'd need to avoid monogamy for at least a month after missing a pill...

    • It may be cheaper then a divorce.
      However like most genes they give a tendency not the actual action. Men can be monogamous for life, even without that gene, because of free will, cultural norms, religious beliefs, finding an other woman is much to hard, etc... Also the inverse can be true men with the gene could be a lying cheating guy, while the gene may make him connect to one it doesn't stop him to try for others.

      Dangers I can see is taking a genetic test say before marriage and men without the genes wil

      • Dangers I can see is taking a genetic test say before marriage and men without the genes will just be dumped on the spot.

        Heck, I could see men DEMANDING such a test, for the very same reason.

    • by Anachragnome (1008495) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @04:01PM (#24848921)

      Hate to kick the barstool out from under y'all, but Jeebuz, you folks act like a gene sequence removes all thought from the equation.

      I don't sleep around because I love my wife and extra-marital affairs have a tendency to remove MARRIAGES. Quite frankly, it is my head, and the thoughts within, that decide my actions, not the genes passed on to me. Genes may have some effect, but if the result is not acceptable to the thinking part of me, they are simply over-ridden.

       

      • by starglider29a (719559) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @04:05PM (#24848999)
        See... she has him on it already, and the poor blighter doesn't even know it.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Mr. Slippery (47854)

        Genes may have some effect, but if the result is not acceptable to the thinking part of me, they are simply over-ridden.

        The point is that the genes determine, or at least influence, what the "thinking part" of you find acceptable.

        You are not consciousness inhabiting a body. You are consciousness generated by a body. The nature of that consciousness is determined by the nature of the body. The nature of the body is determined by genetics and by environment.

      • by sckeener (137243) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @04:56PM (#24849967)

        Congrats on the impossible to prove otherwise post!

        There is no way to prove that your genes are not influencing you.

        However since identical twins separated at birth have many mental similarities, I'm going to go with gene's influence you more than you know.

        http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/national/longterm/twins/twins2.htm [washingtonpost.com]

        statistics have shown that on average, identical twins tend to be around 80 percent the same in everything from stature to health to IQ to political views. The similarities are partly the product of similar upbringing. But evidence from the comparison of twins raised apart points rather convincingly to genes as the source of a lot of that likeness. In the most widely publicized study of this type, launched in 1979, University of Minnesota psychologist Thomas Bouchard and his colleagues have chronicled the fates of about 60 pairs of identical twins raised separately. Some of the pairs had scarcely met before Bouchard contacted them, and yet the behaviors and personalities and social attitudes they displayed in lengthy batteries of tests were often remarkably alike.

  • by dedazo (737510) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @03:02PM (#24847855) Journal

    When confronted by large quantities of beer protein.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      There might be some truth to that, actually- ethanol suppresses vasopressin (also known as antidiuretic hormone) secretion, which is why alcoholic beverages tend to have a noticeable diuretic effect in addition to their disinhibition effects.
  • by Leomania (137289) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @03:03PM (#24847879) Homepage

    In my case, it's a "Martha" that has the greatest influence over my monogamous inclinations.

    • Does she take your balls out of her purse every once in a while to let you know what they look like? ;)

      • by jbeaupre (752124)

        Knowing our cat missed his (always looking for them), we put a pair of 1/4" galvanized nuts on his collar. Didn't have brass ones to give him. But he seemed just as happy.

        Gave us a laugh every time we'd hear him jingling down the hall. And luckily my wife never suggested we do the same to me.

  • I think my monogamy gene is recessive.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Wait until after you've had sex to make that call.
  • by thermian (1267986) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @03:07PM (#24847955)

    They also found that geeks tended to possess just half of this gene, which researchers postulate may explain their lack of ability to get a girlfriend.

  • i don't believe it (Score:4, Interesting)

    by circletimessquare (444983) <circletimessquare&gmail,com> on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @03:07PM (#24847957) Homepage Journal

    monogamy in general seems to be a mirage

    there are of course places in the world where polygamy is openly accepted, but in places where monogamy dominates publicly, everyone is polygamous in secret

    and i am talking about men AND women. male polygamy gets more attention only because male polygamy is more public, male sexuality full of more bravado. women are just better at keeping secrets

    and it makes perfect sense for men and women. men for for the obvious ability to spread more genes, and women for access to more resources, or simply to get better genes in secret than the genes of the publicly acknowledged mate (it has been speculated something like 10% of children before the era of genetic testing were raised by fathers who weren't really their genetic fathers)

    i think that any gene that regulates vasopressin simply regulates how discrete or not discrete a male is going about being secretly or openly polygamous

    there is just too much incentive, genetically, to spread your seed as wide as possible, no matter what

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by DoofusOfDeath (636671)

      monogamy in general seems to be a mirage

      Are you saying that it doesn't exist, or that it's just rarer than we pretend?

      Consider that if ~ 50% of married people are adulterous, then there's a huge fraction (~ 50%) who are monogamous.

    • by Millennium (2451)

      there is just too much incentive, genetically, to spread your seed as wide as possible, no matter what

      Unless, perhaps, there is not. You make many assumptions based on this core idea that polygamy is some kind of natural tendency, and you have some interesting hypotheses to back it up, but the data doesn't seem to back you.

    • "there is just too much incentive, genetically, to spread your seed as wide as possible, no matter what"

      There is the matter of quality over quantity. If you spread your genes so far and wide that they are doomed to die or be at a disadvantage because they are lacking in support is that better than fewer more cared for who will almost certainly themselves go on to breed.

      • While I disagree with the GP post, I can't really agree with you either.

        If you spread your genes so far and wide that they are doomed to die or be at a disadvantage because they are lacking in support is that better than fewer more cared for who will almost certainly themselves go on to breed.

        The answer, is yes if you can have both. If a man can have many anonomous affairs with little to no cost as well as raise a traditional and stable family, then they are genetically better off to do so. Of course, you can argue that there are risks involved in adultery, such as your wife leaving you and so on.

    • by owlnation (858981)
      I completely agree. Concepts of love have varied greatly from culture to culture and historically throughout the same culture.

      The Hollywood/Hallmark monogamous view of love is a relatively modern invention. Historically people have tended to marry for practical reasons, and dowry was a big factor in the west (and still is in many cultures). Marriage has historically been a business transaction, not an emotional one.

      This "study" is just yet another example of correlation-does-not-equal-causation -- an
      • by tinkerghost (944862) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @03:40PM (#24848585) Homepage

        One researcher found that the overwhelming contribution to the increased rate of divorce is the modern concept of marriage for love instead of position/wealth. The current divorce trend is simply the end result of a curve started in the years following the civil war.

        So if these conservatives want to go back to an idyllic time with low divorce & happy families - I say bring back arranged marriages.

    • I've never had the slightest interest in anything except strict monogamy.

    • I go exactly in your line of thinking. Basically, humans are animals that can think (sometimes it's good, sometimes not...). So for a specie to survive, it has to reproduce as much as it can, and this is WHY sex is fun and gives great pleasure. You imagine where humanity would be if sex was not fun?

      The only reason why monogamy appeared is because of jaleous, unconfident males who could not accept that their mate go elsewhere and find more satisfaction in a relationship. So monogamy is no more than a socia
  • just watch Jeremy Kyle.
  • I heard about this a few years ago...I wonder how long it'll be before spouses are asking science to do gene therapy to fix their loved one.

    grrr...as much as I believe cheating is bad for everyone involved, there has got to be evolutionary reasons why their are differences and fixing everyone to one type sounds like a dumb idea as a species.

  • Oxytocin? (Score:5, Funny)

    by ThanatosMinor (1046978) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @03:09PM (#24848011)
    That's not the cuddle chemical we used when I was in college
  • by Pontiac (135778) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @03:10PM (#24848037) Homepage

    Now your GF/Wife will want you to take the "Cheating bastard" DNA test too.

  • by jollyreaper (513215) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @03:14PM (#24848121)

    Definitions

    Polygamy: one too many wives

    Monogamy: see "Polygamy"

  • No Monogamy Gene (Score:4, Interesting)

    by eebra82 (907996) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @03:19PM (#24848225) Homepage
    I seriously doubt that humans were holding on to each other for lifetimes before the dawn of religions. After all, the whole idea of staying together forever and ever is all taken from a few books that people wrote hundreds of years ago.

    Let's say that we go 10,000 years back. Why would a man not screw around as much as possible? And if love existed, who's to say that it lasted for long periods? I remember reading an article that stated that "love" is a chemical reaction that lasts roughly six months, given or take a couple of months. I guess it's enough time to bond and mate.

    Maybe this "monogamy gene" relates to something totally different, but has altered effects because of traditions that have grown with religions?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by t0rkm3 (666910)

      Hrmmmm...

      As far as I can tell, from literature in polygamist cultures, the jealousy gene is 100% present in females and males of the species. Therefore, it would seem that a barter system would evolve. The higher your wealth is above the mean of the society that you live in, the more likely that you will be able to entice potential partners into a 'mutually beneficial' relationship. The wealth assuages the greater portion of the jealousy, while other services alleviate the remainder.

    • by blueg3 (192743) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @03:47PM (#24848693)

      Why would a man not screw around as much as possible?

      In short, because our young are vulnerable after birth, require a fairly large energy investment, and are few in number.

      Monogamy actually appears in a number of different animal species.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by syousef (465911)

        Why would a man not screw around as much as possible?
        In short, because our young are vulnerable after birth, require a fairly large energy investment, and are few in number.

        As a new father I have to say I concur! Well that, and the fact that my wife's got a black belt in Karate.

        (I kid, though she does really have a black belt)

    • So, in essence, you believe penguins are religious...

      • by db32 (862117)
        Wrong place to ask that question my friend...

        Though I must say it brings an interesting connotation and often overlooked piece of the Apple logo (just one bite missing...)
    • by vux984 (928602) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @03:55PM (#24848827)

      Let's say that we go 10,000 years back. Why would a man not screw around as much as possible?

      Lots of reasons...

      Inability to find good mates... Ideal mothers for your children would reject you knowing that you wouldn't provide for them?

      Low chance of offspring surviving... mothers would be unable to care for your children, and unable to find mates willing help them?

      Societal acceptance... e.g. The other men would stone him? Stone the women he cheated with? Stone his offspring?

      Monogamy exists in nature. There are reasons for why it works where it exists.

      And if love existed, who's to say that it lasted for long periods?

      Indeed. Monogamy isn't necessarily 'till death to we part' in modern society at least it simply means not cheating on your partner. It is entirely possible to marry, raise a child, separate, marry someone else, and even raise another child, all within the confines of monogamy.

      Hell when I was a teen, most of us were pretty monogamous; its not that we all married our first crush, but rather that our teen years were a succession of monogamous relationships of varying lengths, some quite brief, and punctuated with periods of being 'single'.

      And yes some people who were supposedly 'in a relationship' cheated, and when caught it carried a stigma, one that I would say definitely impacted their dating prospects in the circles where it was known that they cheated (applied to both males and females).

  • So does this research suggest that the old saying "Once a cheater, always a cheater" is actually true?

  • by JPMallory (1318445) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @03:23PM (#24848309)
    Does this mean we may be able to finally develop a cure for monogamy?
  • by houbou (1097327) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @03:23PM (#24848327) Journal
    Will he/she buy that? Maybe there should be a cheater test kit. :)
  • by Coraon (1080675) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @03:38PM (#24848553)
    Being polygamous I wonder if I have this gene...hehe I know my wife her girlfriend, and my two other partners don't. ;)
  • Call me when they find the gene marker for "couldn't get a date if her life depended on it." That's the one I (and ostensibly a big chunk of the Slashdot population) need gene therapy for.
  • And in other news...a population of MONOG gene knock-out mice has just moved to Utah.

  • and fear of herpes :P
  • "commitment-phobes or devoted husbands"

    Nothing like adding a little judgmental stereotyping in there, eh? I'm a polyamorous, male, and live with my wife of 8 years, my other primary, and have a secondary in another location, all well aware of each other and all also poly. (Plus my kid, and my o.p.'s 3 kids, & some of wife & o.p.'s other relationships) My longest running relationship of spans 15 years.

    Of course this might confuse the average slashdotter (who, the stereotype says, has no women in h

  • by AP31R0N (723649)

    If humans were meant to be monogamous, we wouldn't be having this conversation. It would be a given and a non-issue. Non-monogamy would be something lesser beasts do and would strike us as odd and curious behavior.

    Asking humans to be monogamous is like asking a cat to NOT chase a mouse. "Did you SEE her tits? Of COURSE I hit that. I'd be gay if it didn't!"

    Marriage is a system invented by men with power to make alliances and to manage inheritance of power. The whole love thing is very 20th century.

  • yo, I got your "monogamy gene" right over here! ... right over here with the paternity tests Maury uses.

  • by tedgyz (515156) * on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @04:34PM (#24849551) Homepage

    So is "Genetically Monogomous" going to be incorporated into eharmony profiles?

  • by mckinnsb (984522) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @05:17PM (#24850329)

    You don't have to go 10,000 years back (as a previous poster stated) to see where this gene might be disadvantageous. Try a mere 120(ish). I read a artistic biography about Paul Gauguin in my Psychoanalytic Approach to Art class (it was one of those classes that I took just to call 'bulls$hit' but ended up learning something) and he described at great length the sexual practices of the people of Mataiea village.

    Essentially, the people of the village were grouped into four "sections". You had:

    • the fertile, productive males, who were deemed capable of producing offspring.
    • the fertile, productive females, who were deemed capable of producing offspring. Note that more women were considered capable by fraction when compared to the men.
    • the males and females who were NOT considered capable of producing offspring, either because of a) behavior or b) physical problems. Gauguin, when he landed in Tahiti, was considered a member of this group because his actions were deemed incredibly effeminate. (I guess the wig , clothing, and makeup didn't help much.)
    • the old.

    Every night, a particular woman was selected (or several), and the able, fertile males - for lack of a better expression in a public forum - "had at her." All at once.

    The idea behind this was that this would ensure that the woman would be impregnated after a time, and that the most fertile male sperm would "compete" for the egg, ensuring that it was the most fit to be born. Also, the men would never know which children were explicitly theirs - and the women would never know who the real father was - so the community as a whole would raise the child.

    To (most) Western standards, this is pretty gross. To Gauguin, it was fascinating. However, you could see how a "monogamy gene" would not be advantageous in such a circumstance. The book - and Gauguin's writings - seemed to indicate that more 'sensitive' men , who may possess this gene, were thrown in the third group because they were not considered true "men". (Homosexuals were also in this group, for the record.)

    Also, in closing, I'd like to point out that this society landed itself absolutely nowhere. Most successful empires/expansions of human civilization relied on monogamous culture - after all, you needed an heir to hand a crown to, and the wars between siblings were already bad enough without having to choose which *mother* produced the rightful heir. (Although, that happened regardless).

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