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Biotech Science

Possible Monogamy Gene Found In People 440

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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  • Hhhmm, (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @03:00PM (#24847811)
    Shouldn't evolution sided with either monogamy or polygamy? I mean even if there is only a one percent difference between the successor rates should that have not been reflected by now?
  • i don't believe it (Score:4, Interesting)

    by circletimessquare ( 444983 ) <> 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

  • 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:Hhhmm, (Score:5, Interesting)

    by geekgirlandrea ( 1148779 ) <> on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @03:22PM (#24848285) Homepage

    Because which strategy works better would depend on what strategy everyone else in the local population is following. You end up with an stable equilibrium proportion where both strategies work equally well, all things being equal, but if you perturb it slightly the one becomes slightly more advantageous than the other and reproduces faster until the equilibrium is restored.

  • by echtertyp ( 1094605 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @04:43PM (#24849745)
    Marriage is the worst thing that can happen to you. Worse than a car accident, in most cases.
  • by discards ( 1345907 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @04:46PM (#24849805)

    Studies show that monogamous, long-married men live on average something like 5 years longer than single men. We used to attribute this to the fact that you have someone caring for you and someone to grow old with, providing more emotional stability.

    However, I wonder if this gene actually has something to do with it, i.e. Could people with the monogamous gene live longer simply because they have the gene?

  • 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. []

    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 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).

  • Re:Disablites Act (Score:2, Interesting)

    by V!NCENT ( 1105021 ) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @05:07AM (#24856255)

    You read it wrong. He points at people with autism.

    Which is quite strange though... because in my honest opinion autism is bullshit. Autism is not a social defect. In fact, everyone here with 'autism' that came to /. and comment here are engaging on the purest form of social activity.

    First of all, as we say it in dutch, 'kinds of people searching same kind of people'. This means that you are already trying to become part of a group that's at least somewhat like you, no matter in what way that might be, or at least share your interests. Secondly, you are responding to other people and they respond back to you. This means you are engaging in social activity.

    What might hinder people with autism is that they don't receive social signals. That is because you are missing receptors for social signals in your brain. It can be easily overcome though. It's like hardware video acceleration in your computers graphics card; If you don't have hardware acceleration then you must install a software accelerated program and run it. If you don't automatically know when someone is smiling, like many people with autism have, but can learn that a mathematical curve A means J and curve B means K than you can learn that a particular shape of someones mouth can represent a particular emotion. You can learn what types of emotions there are and when you know that you can read out peoples mental state (angry, happy, hollow).

    After you did that you can use that for social interaction. Social rules change with the times and are not hardwired to your brain so everyone needs to learn them, even those without autism. So what you need to do is face your fears (it's the only way you can overcome fears) and trial&error what people like and what they don't like.

    If you live in the Netherlands and close to Amsterdam I am willing to learn you all about it, for free.

    I have been quite autistic in the past (until the age of 12 I have avoided social interaction and have only been playing with toys, computers and consoles). I couldn't understand hints and sarcasm. And one day when I've had it with sitting behind my computer all day out of getting bored and was slowly learning everything I could from social interaction. Right now I am among the most popular guys in my class and got a lot of attention from girls.

"I don't believe in sweeping social change being manifested by one person, unless he has an atomic weapon." -- Howard Chaykin