Send to

Choose Destination
PLoS One. 2011;6(6):e20959. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0020959. Epub 2011 Jun 16.

Genetic susceptibility for individual cooperation preferences: the role of monoamine oxidase A gene (MAOA) in the voluntary provision of public goods.

Author information

Institute for Labour Law and Industrial Relations in the European Community (IAAEG), University of Trier, Trier, Germany.


In the context of social dilemmas, previous research has shown that human cooperation is mainly based on the social norm of conditional cooperation. While in most cases individuals behave according to such a norm, deviant behavior is no exception. Recent research further suggests that heterogeneity in social behavior might be associated with varying genetic predispositions. In this study, we investigated the relationship between individuals' behavior in a public goods experiment and the promoter-region functional repeat polymorphism in the monoamine oxidase A gene (MAOA). In a dynamic setting of increasing information about others' contributions, we analyzed differences in two main components of conditional cooperation, namely the players' own contribution and their beliefs regarding the contribution of other players. We showed that there is a significant association between individuals' behavior in a repeated public goods game and MAOA. Our results suggest that male carriers of the low activity alleles cooperate significantly less than those carrying the high activity alleles given a situation where subjects had to rely on their innate beliefs about others' contributions. With increasing information about the others' cooperativeness, the genetic effect diminishes. Furthermore, significant opposing effects for female subjects carrying two low activity alleles were observed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Public Library of Science Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center