Sunday, February 01, 2009

Behavior genetics + economics = ?   posted by Razib @ 2/01/2009 12:03:00 AM

A week ago I posted MAOA, aggression and behavioral economics. In a related vein, I thought I would point again to Genetic Variation in Preferences for Giving and Risk-Taking (see Herricks' post on this last fall). From the conclusion:
In this paper, we have presented an empirical investigation into the relative contributions of individual differences in genes an environment to observed variation in economic preferences for risk and giving...While our results do not allow us to be as assertive as Sir Francis Galton, they do suggest that humans are endowed with genetic variation in their proclivity to donate money to charity and to take risks. By now there is a plethora of studies exploring th sources of individual variation in economic experiments and games, yet up until recently considerations of genetic influences have remained relativel absent. Here we have argued that this failure to consider genes obscures an important source of preference heterogeneity. Ultimately, we hope that a better understanding of the underlying individual genetic economic preferences, and the adaptive pressures under which these preferences evolved will lead to a more comprehensive economic science that can bridge some of the unexplained gaps between empirical data and economic theory....

You can read the whole paper at the link provided. The paper mentions the AVRP1a gene's association with variation in the dictator game. Of course, variation on this locus has many correlates, so I'm sure that the dopamine receptor related genes will also pop-up in the behavior economic literature soon enough. Get a big enough alphabet soup of genes, and perhaps we can go from talking about behavioral genetics & economics, to behavioral & economic genomics. I'm betting this game will resemble the genetic architecture of skin color more than IQ or height. Note how some of these loci show up over & over again in the literature, in different disciplinary contexts & behavioral phenotypes.