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

    Definitions

    Polygamy: one too many wives

    Monogamy: see "Polygamy"

  • Re:Hhhmm, (Score:5, Informative)

    by dkleinsc (563838) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @03:17PM (#24848185) Homepage

    No. It shouldn't have, because either strategy can lend itself to evolutionary success for men.

    If you're a powerful man, polygamy is an excellent strategy. You want to be impregnating every woman you can get your hands on, and you can by force and/or intimidation (among other motivators). Genghis Khan is an exemplar of this (at least according to one study that something like 6% of the world's men are his descendants). With that many kids, you don't need to invest very much in making sure each kid survives long enough to reproduce.

    If you're a powerless man, then your best strategy is monogamy: you aim to have one woman who you reproduce with, and devote lots of time and energy into making sure that those kids survive. This leads to the nerds who will love a woman forever and stick with her through sickness and health.

    If you're somewhere in between on the power scale, then the strategy seems to be pretending monogamy while having at least one mistress on the side. The theory here is that you get the greater number of kids and genetic variation from having more partners, but a fallback position of the kids from your "monogamous" relationship. Hence middle-management types cheating on their wives.

  • Re:Hhhmm, (Score:4, Informative)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @03:30PM (#24848421) Journal
    Interesting question. The answer, though, is more interesting still: various flavors of "not necessarily".

    The adaptive value of a trait can and does vary depending on its environment and the environment is different depending on how common the trait is. For traits having to do with deception, you tend to see some sort of equilibrium. Typically, a naive and honest population does better than a dishonest and suspicious one, because they don't waste resources on deception and deception detection. If, however, a lone cheater shows up in a naive and honest population, the cheater will do extraordinarily well. This will cause cheating to increase in frequency, and will create a selective pressure in favor of being able to detect cheaters. Sometimes, the cheaters tip the balance, and a naive and honest population becomes a suspicious and deceptive one, sometimes cheater detection is good enough to wipe out the cheaters, and often the two traits find an equilibrium point. The suspicion required to eliminate all cheaters will be too costly to be adaptive; but cheating will only work sometimes, and on a limited scale.

    With the possible exception of simple deleterious mutations, traits are not absolutely better or worse, their value depends on their environment, and their environment depends in part on them. Just looking at the values of the traits at the beginning isn't good enough, you need to use a game theory approach, and look at the value of the traits across repeated rounds.
  • Re:interesting... (Score:4, Informative)

    by SMS_Design (879582) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @04:04PM (#24848991)
    Until you're married to multiple partners, you're not polygamous. Perhaps polyamorous?
  • Re:interesting... (Score:4, Informative)

    by sesshomaru (173381) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @04:09PM (#24849057) Journal

    Don't blame the grand-parent, the article refers to a "monogamy gene" but I doubt prairie voles are getting married. (If I'm wrong, please post video of a prairie vole wedding, because that sounds neat.)

    So, he's misusing "polygamous" the same way the article misused "monogamous."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @05:06PM (#24850121)

    being a married man with few years of personal experience I can tell you two things:
    1. being married in no way limits you to monogamy. That is good so because sex on demand does not work 100% either.
    2. modern women cannot cook so if you want to eat a decent meal you either cook, get a well cooking lover (that would be a man then) or go to a restaurant - I took first option.

  • by Mr. Slippery (47854) <.tms. .at. .infamous.net.> on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @05:43PM (#24850811) Homepage

    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

    Only if you're assuming one man per woman. No reason for that; there're lots of poly women out there.

  • Re:Hhhmm, (Score:3, Informative)

    by dlenmn (145080) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @06:42PM (#24851703) Homepage

    Since it doesn't seem to be, that would seem to indicate that perhaps there is no evolutionary advantage to either side. With no advantage, there is no pressure for humanity to tend in one direction or the other. That could yield a pattern closer to what we are seeing now.

    Or it could be that it's a mixed strategy equilibrium in which case it makes sense for a certain percentage of people to be monogamous and the rest not to be.

    Would one non-monogamous guy be at an advantage in an otherwise monogamous society? Possibly -- he'd be able to father more children that way. Would one monogamous guy be at an advantage in an otherwise non-monogamous society? Possibly -- since everyone else doesn't really stick around to take care of their kids, his children would be better cared for and thus more likely to survive.

    If those two statements are true, you'd expect some sort of mixed strategy equilibrium.

    See:

    Robert Axelrod, The Evolution of Cooperation (the book -- I haven't read the article of the same name).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strategy_(game_theory)#Mixed_strategy [wikipedia.org]

  • Re:Hhhmm, (Score:3, Informative)

    by j-pimp (177072) <zippy1981NO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @08:45AM (#24857499) Homepage Journal

    Only on slashdot would that comment be modded both informative and insightful.

    You must be female, and have little interaction with males.

  • by jythie (914043) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @01:59PM (#24862209)

    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 commitments actually WORK for various people.
     

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