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'Ruthlessness gene' discovered; Dictatorial behaviour may be partly genetic, study suggests.

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posted on Apr, 6 2008 @ 02:15 PM

'Ruthlessness gene' discovered; Dictatorial behaviour may be partly genetic, study suggests.

Selfish dictators may owe their behaviour partly to their genes, according to a study that claims to have found a genetic link to ruthlessness. The study might help to explain the money-grabbing tendencies of those with a Machiavellian streak — from national dictators down to 'little Hitlers' found in workplaces the world over.
(visit the link for the full news article)

Related News Links:
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Characterization of Empathy Deficits following Prefrontal Brain Damage
Neuroscientists Searching For Roots Of Empathy
Neurobiological Roots of Our Multiple Moraliti evolutionary

Related Discussion Threads:
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Do genes cause disease or disorders?

[edit on 4/6/2008 by biggie smalls]

posted on Apr, 6 2008 @ 02:15 PM
I thought this was quite an interesting article. Is the study biased and 100% accurate? I can't tell.

It would make sense though for there to be a gene or group of genes that allow some to behave without empathy. It may also be a lack of a developed (or damaged) prefrontal cortex.

The combination of the gene and the underdeveloped prefrontal cortex could make the person less understanding of others feelings and desires, and allow the selfishness "gene" to thrive.

This part below was rather fascinating:

The researchers don't know the mechanism by which the gene influences behaviour. It may mean that for some, the old adage that "it is better to give than to receive" simply isn't true, says team leader Richard Ebstein. The reward centres in those brains may derive less pleasure from altruistic acts, he suggests, perhaps causing them to behave more selfishly.

So some people may not feel as good behaving altruistically, and that may be a cause for their behavior.

They simply do not profit or benefit from helping someone else (neurologically at least). Taking care of themselves then becomes a much more important reason for survival. No one else matters because after all, "I" is all that exists, right? (Wrong)

Prosocial hormone

Ebstein and his colleagues decided to look at AVPR1a because it is known to produce receptors in the brain that detect vasopressin, a hormone involved in altruism and 'prosocial' behaviour.

Apparenlty vasopressin was not as high in the "dictators," but higher in the "altruistic" people.

Long and short

There was no connection between the participants' gender and their behaviour, the team reports. But there was a link to the length of the AVPR1a gene: people were more likely to behave selfishly the shorter their version of this gene.

The longer the AVPR1a gene is (according to this study anyway) the more altruistic the person.

If someone had a very short AVPR1a gene, the chances of them being selfish are apparently much higher. Fascinating.

It isn't clear how the length of AVPR1a affects vasopressin receptors: it is thought that rather than controlling the number of receptors, it may control where in the brain the receptors are distributed. Ebstein suggests the vasopressin receptors in the brains of people with short AVPR1a may be distributed in such a way to make them less likely to feel rewarded by the act of giving.

Though the mechanism is unclear, Ebstein says, he is fairly sure that selfish, greedy dictatorship has a genetic component.

This study should by no means be taken as fact. I just found it interesting to read about.

If some ATSers have a short AVPR1a gene and happen to be altruistic, let me know
(that would imply you had your genes mapped too...).

Keen players

Researchers should nevertheless be careful about using the relatively blunt tool of the Dictator Game to draw conclusions about human generosity, says Nicholas Bardsley at the University of Southampton, UK, who studies such games.

His research suggests that players who routinely give money away as Dictators are also perfectly happy to steal money off other players in games that involve taking rather than giving. This suggests that the apparently more altruistic players in Ebstein's game may in fact be motivated by a desire simply to engage fully with the game, perhaps just because they feel that that is what's expected of them.

Bardsley suggests that those who were altruistic in the "Dictator Game" are merely playing the game how they think its supposed to be played, but aren't necessarily more altruistic.

I think basing an entire study around a game is foolish, but with the added DNA test, at least some interesting data could be compiled.

Will it be accurate? I can't say, but probably not. More tests should be done in this area.

If that is true, then apparently ruthless dictators may be motivated not by out-and-out greed but by a simple lack of social skills, which leaves them unable to sense what's expected of them.

That certainly fits with the image of a naïve yet arrogant dictator with no sense of the inappropriateness of his actions and attitudes.

It may be a combination of a lack of social skills, the AVPR1a gene, and a underdeveloped prefrontal cortex that allows some people to act selfish (or some other combination of the above).
(visit the link for the full news article)

posted on Apr, 6 2008 @ 02:24 PM
Good article Biggie...I always suspected that there might be some genetic cause to the megalomaniacal types...Bush's mug-shot should be next to the identification of this gene. lol

posted on Apr, 6 2008 @ 02:34 PM
Fascinating story.

Expect to get lambasted though, addressing the biological roots of behavior, especially that of those who adhere to various kinds of authoritarianism, it likely to be a touchy subject

posted on Apr, 6 2008 @ 02:43 PM
reply to post by DimensionalDetective

Yeah the genetic connection to "ruthlessness" certainly is fascinating, and I do believe holds some truth.

As for Bush being the poster-child for the gene, I don't think so. Cheney would fit much better. I'm not sure Curious George is acting on his own thoughts. He is being manipulated and deceived for someone else's good.

reply to post by xmotex

Basing an entire study on the biological reasons of behavior is a bit one-sided (and could lead to the further study of eugenics, which I am no fan of). Neurologically I believe people who take advantage of others are different, whether that means some chemicals are imbalanced or what I don't know.

Again, the study is not fact, merely theory so its not necessarily proven to be true.

As I said above, there is a certain amount of biology, social mechanisms, and other factors that play into a person being extremely selfish.

Its not as cut and dry as gene makeup.

posted on Apr, 6 2008 @ 05:02 PM
Fascinating Thread. Will take a while to read through it.

posted on Apr, 6 2008 @ 05:21 PM
Im kind of tired of the daily news proclaiming this and that to be due to genes rather than personal choice (in the Dictators case bad personal choice). The whole gene-fad is becoming increasingly biased towards "we dont have any free will, its all pre-determined".

Not good for people who value self-determinism and responsibility/accountability.

Bush: "It wasnt my fault. Its in my genes, you see".

posted on Apr, 6 2008 @ 05:26 PM
You can still hold people accountable for their actions regardless if they have the "dictator" gene or not. The scientists are trying to find a logical reason for some people's actions, and this is one man's "excuse."

I do not agree with the entire premise, but I do believe genes could be involved in the deciding of an "empathic" person.

There's that whole stereotype that all Irish are sensitive. I fit that bill pretty well. Does that make it a rule? No.

The same goes for dictators and psycho/sociopaths. Genes can only be partly to blame. I believe empathy has to do with the prefrontal cortex/genes at least to some degree (nature), as well as "nurture" (how the person was raised), and definitely other factors that I don't even know.

When nurture and nature both work to create a "negative" personality type, disaster is already in the making.

I believe everyone should hold themselves accountable for their own actions, regardless if they have some psychological disorder or deficiency.

Life doesn't always work that way though.

posted on Apr, 6 2008 @ 05:32 PM
reply to post by Skyfloating

There is actually a damn good reason for this type of mentality - that self-accountability promotes.

Say we did go on with this and took action, wouldn't this essentially mean treating people with such genes as 'second-class' citizens, because in the eyes of the wider society they would have 'inferior genetic codes'*?

Ah, DNA - nature's barcode.

p.s; i've heard reference to this gene being labelled as the 'warrior gene', but that was at the start of last year.

I get the feeling that the people the OP is sourcing aren't on the same page as the rest of the science community.

[edit on 6-4-2008 by Throbber]

posted on Apr, 6 2008 @ 05:39 PM
Yes. And I dont like the direction all this research is going. Its counter-spiritual, imo...making a human nothing more than a chemical-reaction robot that can be classed into "citizen type A, B, etc.".

Hopefully there are still some scientists who factor in consciousness/mind as a decision-making factor.

Everything from obesity to being a tyrant is supposed to be created by genes.

But in the case of obesity: If obesity is because of genes, then why were all the people on holocaust-pictures so skinny?

Are these articles being published on a daily basis science or propaganda?

No offense to you biggie smalls...but what is the end-result of this type of thinking?

[edit on 6-4-2008 by Skyfloating]

posted on Apr, 6 2008 @ 05:39 PM
* i assume anyone involved in such action would themselves be genetically tested.

I'm more in favour of finding a solution to the problem, not just filling it with holes and letting it rot on the pages of human history.

posted on Apr, 6 2008 @ 05:41 PM
I didn't happen to agree with this study. I was only saying I found it interesting.

Nothing more, nothing less.

Carry on with the discussion, I am merely an observer

posted on Apr, 6 2008 @ 05:50 PM
I suppose whenever some kid does something that is considered detrimental to society, you really can just "blame it on the parents".

At least, Biologically.

I suppose that's the question really - at what point did we start analysing the minds of criminals and victims alike in such a way that sentences could be reduced simply because of a biological or psychological (or more specifically, Nuerological) disability?

Something that enables you to kill another person for no reason other than the irritance they cause in you should not be classed as a disability - i'd be more inclined to call it a 'threat to every person around him'.

In a way, that is the complete opposite of a disability really - kinda like as if the person refuses to accept he has a mental or physical problem to the point of which he no longer even accepts that people around him can have problems of their own.

Delusional, in essence.

[edit on 6-4-2008 by Throbber]

posted on Jul, 22 2008 @ 12:55 AM
Genesis Biolabs is offering a mail-in test for the "ruthlessness" gene.

"We are a product not just of our genetics, but of our experiences and our choices. However, one can conceal or misrepresent ones choices and motives, but genetics do not lie. There are numerous situations where knowing if someone has the ruthless or altruistic version of AVPR1a might be useful. Before getting married, or making a business partnership, this genetic test might be appropriate. All of our politicians should probably submit to this test. "

An objective test of whether someone really has only his own interests at heart seems very valuable to me.

posted on Jul, 22 2008 @ 06:13 AM
I am biased towards the superorganism model, and therefore see genetic diversity as a good thing. There is a distributed intelligence in the species that produces these personality varieties as required. An analogy would be the human immune system's "intelligent" responses to disease. All kind of solutions are computed and proteins are folded accordingly, but not all of them are going to solve the problem. The computed cells compete for resources, and if a certain solution is recognized as superior, that kind of cell is produced in greater quantities. Maybe it's too simplistic, but it seems clear to me that we are a part of a human superorganism that is computing solutions to problems in a context we do not understand.

posted on Jul, 22 2008 @ 07:16 AM
We are such faulty beings and i personally know of at least two such individuals-
These people do beleive that if they ran the world then things would be up to their standards, not necessarily better, just up to the way they like things, their own brand of perfection.

Just thought i'd throw that in before my morning coffee.

BTW, it may be more that they are SOB/s than from the wrong gene pool.

That's just an excuse.

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