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Medicine Science

Scientists Discover Gene For Ruthlessness 300

Pioneer Woman writes "Researchers at Hebrew University in Jerusalem have found a link between a gene called AVPR1a and ruthless behavior. These findings come from an economic exercise called the 'Dictator Game' that allows players to behave selflessly, or like national dictators and 'little Hitlers' found in workplaces the world over. The team decided to look at AVPR1a because it is known to produce receptors in the brain that detect vasopressin, a hormone involved in 'prosocial' behavior. Researchers tested DNA samples from more than 200 student volunteers, before asking the students to play the game that measured their altruism. There was no connection between the participants' gender and their behavior but there was a link to the length of the AVPR1a gene."
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Scientists Discover Gene For Ruthlessness

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  • by chunk08 ( 1229574 ) on Sunday April 06, 2008 @09:54PM (#22984328) Journal
    Agreed. Genes do not "turn off/on" certain functions like a checkbox in a properties/preferences dialog. Genetic science can provide many wonderful things, but we will never be able to alter a gene to "make sure the baby is smart" or "keep him from being anti-social." As usual, the mainstream press sensationalizes science and contributes to the dumbing down already far advanced by public^Wgovernment education.
  • Re:Repeat after me (Score:5, Informative)

    by icegreentea ( 974342 ) on Sunday April 06, 2008 @10:08PM (#22984452)
    The article never says cause, always link (which could be either correlation or causation). Article also says that the gene in question regulates something about vasopressin receptors in the brain, so vasopressin's effects on the rest of the body can be ignored. The hormone in question also governs aggression, aspects of social interaction, as well as (suspected) the bond making ability between humans (love, if you will). I see some link/relation between these and ruthlessness. It's fine to criticize the press for dumbing down science. But pick the right articles to criticize. Just as slashdot is not one homogeneous body of people unable to hold contradicting opinions, the press is not one homogeneous body of people unable to write to different levels of competent and accuracy. This might not be the best article/research, but they're pretty good.
  • by Baron_Yam ( 643147 ) on Sunday April 06, 2008 @10:52PM (#22984756)

    I'm smarter than my cats, and that's genetic. There will be a day when IQ can be adjusted genetically.

    Some primates are social, some aren't - gorillas vs orangutans, and that's genetic. There will be a day when the need for social approval can be adjusted genetically.
  • Psychopathy. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Fantastic Lad ( 198284 ) on Sunday April 06, 2008 @11:01PM (#22984826)
    I doubt if it can be tagged to a single gene, but certain traits which make up the basket deal of psychopathy certainly results from differently-functioning brains.

    The distinctive brains of psychopaths. []

    "But for psychopaths, the word 'cancer' and the word 'table' had the same emotional connotations - which is to say, not very many. It's as if they're emotionally color-blind."

    Even more staggering were the findings of a study conducted by New York City psychiatrist Joanne Intrator, with Hare's collaboration, at the Bronx Veterans Administration hospital in 1993. The investigators employed the same language test, this time injecting the subjects with a radioactive tracer and scanning color images of their brains. As normal subjects processed the emotion-laden words, their brains lit up with activity, particularly in the areas around the ventromedial frontal cortex and amygdala. The former plays a crucial role in controlling impulses and long-term planning, while the amygdala is often described as "the seat of emotion." But in the psychopaths, those parts of the brain appeared to remain inactive while processing the emotion-laden words. That, says Hare, helps explain why a psychopath's conscience is only half-formed. "I showed the scans to several neurologists," recalls Hare. "They said that it did not even look like a human brain. One of them asked, 'Is this person from Mars?' "

    According to Scientific American. []
    Not surprisingly, psychopaths are overrepresented in prisons; studies indicate that about 25 percent of inmates meet diagnostic criteria for psychopathy. Nevertheless, research also suggests that a sizable number of psychopaths may be walking among us in everyday life. Some investigators have even speculated that "successful psychopaths" - those who attain prominent positions in society - may be overrepresented in certain occupations, such as politics, business and entertainment. Yet the scientific evidence for this intriguing conjecture is preliminary.

    One in 100. []
    One person in 100 is a psychopath, meaning that they lack a moral compass, sense of responsibility or empathy (this is a personality disorder, not a mental illness). And although they are overrepresented in the prison system, according to research by American psychologist Dr. Paul Babiak, and his Canadian counterpart Dr. Robert Hare, psychopaths are also well-represented in corporate environments.

    here's a story [] about what I'd say is a very black & white likely case of psychopathy, and one at its worst, at least on a small scale.

    The above link being pretty heavy, I thought I'd offer this lighter fare; A pseudo-scientific test [] to measure yourself on the psychopath-meter.

    If you're going to navigate your pathway through reality, (down the river of life), you need to know where the rocks are if you're going to be able to avoid crashing into them. Christianity and the like has programmed all kinds of self-destructive behavior into human-kind. "Turn the other cheek" is an example of social programming which makes us food for the psychopathic human-type, --the type which I would guess is generally in charge of countries and most of the most powerful organizations which shape our lives; the psychopath recognizes its own and shapes the rules of the world to benefit itself, and study of the power structures over the centuries, doesn't really ever let go once the seat of power is attained. --Christ's supposed dying on the cross, (which I am doubtful actually happened for a variety of reasons, not the l

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