Can genetics help you discover why some people cheat?
Is there a genetic basis to people not being monogamous?
The Naked Scientist Chris Smith, says scientists have been looking at this for a while now.
Not just in humans, but they started in voles, there is a vole species called the prairie vole and another one called the mountain vole and one of these vole species are monogamous and the other vole is the complete opposite.— Chris Smith, Naked Scientist
It will mate with anything given half a chance. So given this very different behaviour but these species are so closely related, this must be genetic because they show this characteristic.— Chris Smith, Naked Scientist
If we compare the genetics of the two animals then the differences must account for this difference in behaviour. So it should be possible to narrow in on this.— Chris Smith, Naked Scientist
It turns out there is a difference in one particular receptor, a chemical dogging station in the brain for a chemical called arginine vasopressin which is used to do various jobs in the body but in the brain. In a certain part of the brain it seems to affect the mating behaviour of these animals.— Chris Smith, Naked Scientist
And the receptor is different in the animals that are monogamous compared to the animals that will mate with anything given half a chance.— Chris Smith, Naked Scientist
He adds that researchers then said given that the receptor which is clearly changing the nerve cells, responds to this nerve chemical, it is different in these voles.
What happens if we look at humans where we find the same sort of thing. Because if you got one mammal, we are very closely related as mammals to these smaller animals, therefore the same thing might be happening in us.— Chris Smith, Naked Scientist
So they have gone and done these experiments and there is some evidence that suggests that if you look at the arginine vasopressin receptor in humans who have a higher divorce rate or have a higher rate of marital disharmony and a higher rate of playing away from home they say.— Chris Smith, Naked Scientist
You can find that more often than chance, there is a change in that receptor in humans compared to people who are more reliable. So we think there is a genetic basis for some aspects of this behaviour.— Chris Smith, Naked Scientist
He adds that we need to be very careful in saying one thing causes something else to happen because there are many factors that influence human behaviours.
There are cultural reasons, social reasons and possibly these genetic reasons, but yes, there may be a genetic underpinning for why some people are more likely to stray than others.— Chris Smith, Naked Scientist
Listen below to hear what else the Naked Scientist had to say...
This article first appeared on 702 : Is serial cheating genetic?