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My vasopressin made me do it
September 2, 2008 2:13 PM   Subscribe

Monogamy gene in humans It was previously found in voles, as discussed here, now they found a correlation in humans.
posted by dov3 (31 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Monogamy gene [absent] in human [politicians]
posted by mcstayinskool at 2:16 PM on September 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


interesting study though...I'd always written off monogamy in humans as being a purely social construct without genetic basis.
posted by mcstayinskool at 2:18 PM on September 2, 2008


I'm not surprised. Then again I'm not in denial that humans are just animals. Slightly clever animals, but animals none the less. To somehow be immune to something in the animal world seems a little too self-serving. So much for 'free will.'
posted by damn dirty ape at 2:24 PM on September 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's more like the absence of the gene is correlated to monogamy. From the first link: Men can have none, one or two copies of the RS3 334 section, and the higher the number of copies, the worse men scored on a measure of pair bonding.
posted by desjardins at 2:31 PM on September 2, 2008


more like "seven year itch" gene then.
posted by troy at 2:32 PM on September 2, 2008


lol, my vasopressin made me do it.

Interesting science update, thanks dov3.

Will there be bridezillas who want their hubby-to-be injected with the genes of Gibbon apes, wolves, termites, coyotes, barn owls, beavers, bald eagles, golden eagles, condors, swans, brolga cranes, French angel fish, sandhill cranes, pigeons, prions (a seabird), red-tailed hawks, anglerfish, ospreys, prairie voles (a rodent), and black vultures (they all mate for life)?

Reading what was for me a life-changing book in understanding some of the differences between males and females when it comes to mating, Diane Ackerman's A Natural History Of Love, it made much better sense the biological reasons why males philander and why females are not allowed to by males.

It's a relief to think there are human males who are genetically inclined not to philander. I've always thought males and females would have happier relationships if it were known upfront the capacity of either partner to remain monogamous.

I hope in the future that partners who are genetically inclined to philander can come to a workable peace with each other. I don't think this wandering around sexually is a healthy environment for kids, because the parents end up in conflict, enraged with each other and this gets dumped on the kid/s.

But then the non-wanderers may not be genetically inclined to be loving parents either.

However, since it would seem logical that a strong, healthy male, "a stud" of the herd, would be inclined to spread his DNA, I wonder what is at the root of the non-philandering gene?
posted by nickyskye at 2:36 PM on September 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


One may decide on high quality offspring, rather than quantity, basically-- that's what a monogamous strategy tends to be about, and this can pay off in some environments, just as promiscuity does in others.

The thing is, no matter what genes you have, the ideal situation for both genders is to be able to cheat when it suits your purposes but have a mate who doesn't. Such situations tend to be different for males and females. This will always produce some degree of conflict.

Of course, you don't have to blindly follow your inclinations-- but the temptation to have that kind of a set-up and rationalize it for yourself but not for your partner or anyone else is there.
posted by Maias at 2:41 PM on September 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


I suspect there's a whole host of simple genetic and pragmatic factors that find social expression in male (and female!) behavioral norms.

For starters, the Y chromosome reproduces asexually down the male line - a mother doesn't contribute to the Y chromosome of her sons, as she has no Y chromosome. Secondly, there is a VAST gulf between the minimum time and resources a man *has* to contribute to a viable pregnancy (about 15 minutes) , and those a woman needs to (nine months of eating for two).

It seems extremely likely that these things, as well as other genetic factors, contribute in a subtle but powerful way to shape behavior of both genders that we usually write off as sociological constructions.
posted by Ryvar at 2:43 PM on September 2, 2008


To somehow be immune to something in the animal world seems a little too self-serving.

And thus we are victim of our higher aspirations. But by definition isn't monogamy the opposite of "self-serving"? Monogamy can be hard work. You're never sure where the goalpost is or if there even is one.

Keeping score, though, is easy.
posted by hal9k at 2:45 PM on September 2, 2008


...[S]ince it would seem logical that a strong, healthy male, "a stud" of the herd, would be inclined to spread his DNA, I wonder what is at the root of the non-philandering gene?

Simple: I hate condoms.
posted by LordSludge at 2:46 PM on September 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


However, since it would seem logical that a strong, healthy male, "a stud" of the herd, would be inclined to spread his DNA, I wonder what is at the root of the non-philandering gene?

Well, for starters, it's the absence of a gene in this case.

However, to answer the question - there are all sorts of ecological niches, even within the breeding strategies of particular gender of a single species. In this case, I suspect there's a tradeoff between having as many offspring as possible without attempting to provide for them, and focusing all your efforts on turning out a few healthy and well-resourced children.
posted by Ryvar at 2:47 PM on September 2, 2008


As far as determinism goes, the study found only statistical likelyhoods, not absolutes.

A single variant, termed RS3, showed a statistically significant connection with behavior within a relationship, leading the authors to focus on a comparison between males carrying two copies of a specific genetic variant called 334 and those with no copies. Those with two copies of RS3-334 were nearly twice as likely to be in unmarried relationships (32 vs. 17 percent), and over twice as likely to report what they termed a "marital crisis" within the last year (34 vs. 15 percent). Their partners also rated their relationships lower in the areas of affection expression, cohesion, and consensus.

From http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20080902-study-men-with-genetic-variant-struggle-with-commitment.html
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 2:48 PM on September 2, 2008


As far as selection pressures for monogamy go, how about STDs? In our modern world we forget that in the wild, parasitism and disease are huge regulators of population, possibly moreso than food availability.
posted by benzenedream at 3:10 PM on September 2, 2008


The National Man-Vole Love Association has released a statement saying that they are pleased to be vindicated by thinking society after years of discrimination. Also, SQUEAK!
posted by briank at 3:11 PM on September 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


so is this a gene women don't have, or did the study only focus on the possible effects of this gene in men?
posted by shmegegge at 3:13 PM on September 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


And for a lot of people, it's a gene that is easy to ignore...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 3:15 PM on September 2, 2008


What if you could tell whether a man is husband material just by peering at his genes?

In my case, people just looked for the bulge and that was enough.
posted by quin at 3:17 PM on September 2, 2008 [3 favorites]


I keep extra copies of this gene in a drawer, just in case my girlfriend removes mine with a retrovirus in my steak.
posted by Eideteker at 3:35 PM on September 2, 2008 [3 favorites]


Alexandra Kitty: without knowing the frequency in the general population of the presence of this gene, you can't really say it's easy or hard to ignore.

I guess it's time to run off and get a DNA profile done so I can see whether I have this gene, so can blame any future philandering on it, rather than having to take responsibility for it like you poor unendowed saps.

I wonder whether (willing) polygamists have this gene or not. Is it really only 'pair' bonding, or is that just the standard used in the study due to societal norms?
posted by wierdo at 3:36 PM on September 2, 2008


I was making a joke...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 5:09 PM on September 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


The abstract of the paper is available here, but I don't think the full version is publically acessible anywhere, which is a pain. I wish the rest of academia had their own version of the arXiv.
posted by Arturus at 5:11 PM on September 2, 2008


Excellent! I'm sure my wives will be glad to hear this news.
posted by aftermarketradio at 5:37 PM on September 2, 2008


Even more proof that men who are monogomous are freaks. They're missing that gene.

Thanks for posting.
posted by Zambrano at 7:00 PM on September 2, 2008


Someday there will be a section on match.com where you are given the opportunity to disclose your vasopressin levels.
posted by onlyconnect at 7:04 PM on September 2, 2008


The autism link is interesting too, I hope that yields some therapy possibilities.
posted by BrotherCaine at 9:05 PM on September 2, 2008


Will there be bridezillas who want their hubby-to-be injected with the genes of Gibbon apes, wolves, termites, coyotes, barn owls, beavers, bald eagles, golden eagles, condors, swans, brolga cranes, French angel fish, sandhill cranes, pigeons, prions (a seabird), red-tailed hawks, anglerfish, ospreys, prairie voles (a rodent), and black vultures (they all mate for life)?

Lord, who wouldn't?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:18 PM on September 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


Alvy, thanks I'd never seen Manimal before. I've been digging up old episodes. There's one where he changes from into a donkey and then back that jarred my suspension of disbelief. I mean really, violation of conservation of ass?
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:27 AM on September 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


About 40 percent of men have one or two copies of the allele. Walum, a PhD student, said that men with two copies of the allele had a greater risk of marital discord than men with one copy, and that men with one copy of the allele were at more risk of such discord than men with no copies. (From this Post article.)

I think this is really interesting in part because of how it affects long-held beliefs about men wanting to propogate their seed and women wanting a stable relationship. This study seems to confirm that at least some men may be much more challenged at relationships (or "pair bonding" as the article puts it) than others, and perhaps these are the men who supposedly have the instinct to go from one woman to another in succession. So maybe it is true that at least some men are genetically predisposed to go from woman to woman and are less able to develop pair bonds.

At the same time, the study seems to show that these men who are challenged at relationships are now in the minority -- about 40% have one or two copies of the gene in question, and the smaller percentage of those men with two copies of the gene are the ones who are most strongly affected by the genetic vasopressin suppression. If it were really true that evolution encouraged and rewarded men who went from woman to woman, it seems to me to follow that there would be alot more men than 40% who had copies of this allele. But in fact the majority of men -- 60% -- do not. So nature (or women) have been rewarding men who stand by their woman.

Which I think is lovely.
posted by onlyconnect at 7:37 AM on September 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


If it were really true that evolution encouraged and rewarded men who went from woman to woman, it seems to me to follow that there would be alot more men than 40% who had copies of this allele. But in fact the majority of men -- 60% -- do not. So nature (or women) have been rewarding men who stand by their woman.

With a 40/60 split, it seems to me more like a situation where both work pretty well. Possibly in different environments, or possibly in any environment.
posted by Tehanu at 12:22 PM on September 3, 2008


To quote a great American scientist, "It's in him, and it got to come out."

And I felt so good, went on boogie'n just the same.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 2:40 PM on September 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


: so is this a gene women don't have, or did the study only focus on the possible effects of this gene in men?

The gene is located on chromosome 12, which is a somatic chromosome. So yes, women would have this gene as well. However, that doesn't mean the gene affects women the same way.

The paper says, "After correction for multiple tests, there was a significant global P value for an association between the RS3-repeat polymorphism and the outcome of the PBS for men (P < 0.01 after a Bonferroni correction of the six tests), but not for women," where PBS is the partner bonding scale they used. They go on to say, "When comparing the mean scores of the PBS for each RS3 allele, this value was found to be significantly lower for men carrying allele 334 than for those not carrying this allele (F(1,130) = 16.35, P < 0.0001, d = 0.27; P < 0.001 after correction for the 11 tests). In addition, a dose-dependent effect of the number of 334 alleles on the PBS score was found, with carriers of two alleles showing the lowest scores. The size of these effects were d = 0.27 between men not carrying any 334 allele and 334 heterozygotes, and d = 0.38 between men not carrying any 334 allele and 334 homozygotes."

So they looked at women, but they didn't find a significant effect where they looked. I think a lot more work needs to be done before we draw broad conclusions about these findings. Needs repeating.
posted by zennie at 4:02 PM on September 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


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