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Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2013 Feb;8(2):209-15. doi: 10.1093/scan/nsr089. Epub 2011 Dec 23.

Religion priming differentially increases prosocial behavior among variants of the dopamine D4 receptor (DRD4) gene.

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  • 1Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106-9660, USA.


Building on gene-environment interaction (G × E) research, this study examines how the dopamine D4 receptor (DRD4) gene interacts with a situational prime of religion to influence prosocial behavior. Some DRD4 variants tend to be more susceptible to environmental influences, whereas other variants are less susceptible. Thus, certain life environments may be associated with acts of prosociality for some DRD4 variants but not others. Given that religion can act as an environmental influence that increases prosocial behavior, environmental input in the form of religion priming may have G × E effects. Results showed that participants with DRD4 susceptibility variants were more prosocial when implicitly primed with religion than not primed with religion, whereas participants without DRD4 susceptibility variants were not impacted by priming. This research has implications for understanding why different people may behave prosocially for different reasons and also integrates G × E research with experimental psychology.

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