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Biol Lett. 2011 Aug 23;7(4):567-70. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2010.1187. Epub 2011 Feb 9.

A common heritable factor influences prosocial obligations across multiple domains.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Edinburgh, 7 George Square, Edinburgh EH8 9JZ, UK.


Although it has been shown that prosocial behaviour is heritable, it has not yet been established whether narrower aspects of prosociality are heritable, nor whether a common mechanism influences prosociality across its multiple domains. Here, we examine civic duty, work-place commitment and concern for the welfare of others with a study of prosocial obligations in 958 adult twin-pairs. Multivariate modelling indicated the existence of genetic factors underlying general prosocial obligations in females, with familial effects (genetic and shared-environment effects were indistinguishable) influencing this general mechanism in males. At the domain-specific level, modest genetic effects were observed in females for civic and work obligations, with shared-environment effects influencing welfare obligations. In males, genetic influences were observed for welfare obligation, with unique environments affecting work and civic duty.

This journal is © 2011 The Royal Society

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