How Oxytocin Receptor (OXTR) Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms Act on Prosociality: The Mediation Role of Moral Evaluation

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Shang, Siyuan ; Wu, Nan ; Su, Yanjie (2017)
  • Publisher: Frontiers Media S.A.
  • Journal: Frontiers in Psychology, volume 8 (issn: 1664-1078, eissn: 1664-1078)
  • Related identifiers: doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00396, pmc: PMC5359230
  • Subject: prosociality | Psychology | Original Research | moral evaluation | mediation | oxytocin receptor gene | gender differences
    mesheuropmc: humanities

Prosociality is related to numerous positive outcomes, and mechanisms underlying individual differences in prosociality have been widely discussed. Recently, research has found converging evidence on the influence of the oxytocin receptor (OXTR) gene on prosociality. Meanwhile, moral reasoning, a key precursor for social behavior, has also been associated with variability in OXTR gene, thus the relationship between OXTR and prosociality is assumed to be mediated by moral evaluation. The current study examines the relationship in question, and includes gender as a potential moderator. Self-reported prosociality on Prosocial Tendencies Measure and evaluation on the moral acceptability of behaviors in stories from 790 Chinese adolescents (32.4% boys) were analyzed for the influence of their OXTR single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). Results showed that SNP at site rs2254298 was indirectly associated with prosocial behaviors via moral evaluation of behaviors, and this effect was moderated by gender. Our findings suggest an indirect association between genetic variations in OXTR and prosociality through moral evaluation, indicating the potential pathway from genetic variability to prosociality through level of moral development. We also provide some evidence that the role of oxytocin system may to some extent depend on gender. These findings may promote our understanding of the genetic and biological roots of prosociality and morality.
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