Genetic Correlates of Economic and Social Risk Taking

19 Pages Posted: 5 Sep 2012

See all articles by Anna Dreber

Anna Dreber

Stockholm School of Economics - Department of Economics

David G. Rand

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Nils Wernerfelt

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Cynthia Montgomery

Harvard University - Strategy Unit

Deepak K. Malhotra

Harvard Business School - Negotiation, Organizations & Markets Unit

Date Written: September 4, 2012

Abstract

Background: Economic risk taking is different from social risk taking. In experimental economics, the former is typically measured through an individual’s willingness to trade off variance for expected value, whereas the latter is typically measured by the trust game (TG) where one individual can send an amount of money that is multiplied to another individual who can choose to send something back. Twin studies suggest that both types of risk taking have a genetic component. Molecular genetics studies attempt to identify the specific genetic loci involved in this transmission.

Methodology/Principal Findings: We test the association between economic risk taking, as measured by an investment game, and social risk taking, as measured by giving in the TG, with polymorphisms in three different genes: the 7-repeat genotype of the dopamine D4 receptor (DRD4), the long-repeat genotype of the RS3 microsatellite in the arginine vasopressin 1a receptor (AVPR1a RS3) and the low-activity version of Monoamine Oxidase A (MAOA). Our sample consists of 135 individuals that are owners, presidents and managers of large companies. After correcting for multiple testing we find only one significant result: the 7-repeat genotype of DRD4 is negatively related to social risk taking (i.e. trusting behavior). This result is contrary to our expectation.

Conclusions: We are unable to replicate previous findings of relationships between economic risk taking and polymorphisms in DRD4 and MAOA, and find no relationship between AVPR1a RS3 and either economic or social risk taking. The novel negative association we find between DRD4 and social risk further emphasizes the difference between economic and social risk taking, although this genetic association should be interpreted with caution given that it is not consistent with our priors.

Keywords: risk, trust, behavioral genetics, DRD4, AVPR1a, MAOA

Suggested Citation

Dreber, Anna and Rand, David G. and Wernerfelt, Nils and Montgomery, Cynthia and Malhotra, Deepak K., Genetic Correlates of Economic and Social Risk Taking (September 4, 2012). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2141601 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2141601

Anna Dreber

Stockholm School of Economics - Department of Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 6501
Sveavagen 65
S-113 83 Stockholm
Sweden

David G. Rand (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
50 Memorial Drive
Cambridge, MA 02139-4307
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.daverand.org

Nils Wernerfelt

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Cynthia Montgomery

Harvard University - Strategy Unit ( email )

Harvard Business School
Soldiers Field Road
Boston, MA 02163
United States

Deepak K. Malhotra

Harvard Business School - Negotiation, Organizations & Markets Unit ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 270C
Boston, MA 02163
United States

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