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Social loafing and social facilitation are stable behavioral effects that describe increased or decreased motivation, as well as effort and cooperation in teamwork as opposed to individual working situations. Recent twin studies demonstrate the heritability of cooperative behavior. Brain imaging studies have shown that reciprocity, cooperativeness, and social rewards activate reward processing areas with strong dopaminergic input, such as the ventral striatum. Thus, candidate genes for social behavior are hypothesized to affect dopaminergic neurotransmission. In the present study, we investigated the dopaminergic genetic contribution to social cooperation, especially to social loafing and social facilitation. N = 106 healthy, Caucasian subjects participated in the study and were genotyped for three polymorphisms relevant to the dopaminergic system (COMTval158met, DRD2 c957t, DRD2 rs#2283265). In addition to a main effect indicating an increased performance in teamwork situations, we found a significant interaction between a haplotype block covering both DRD2 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) (rs#6277 and rs#2283265), henceforth referred to as the DRD2-haplotype block, and the COMT val158met polymorphism (rs#4680) with social facilitation. Carriers of the DRD2 CT-haplotype block and at least one Val-allele showed a greater increase in performance in teamwork settings when compared with carriers of the CT-haplotype block and the Met/Met-genotype. Our results suggest that epistasis between COMTval158met and the two DRD2 SNPs contributes to individual differences in cooperativeness in teamwork settings.


Nora T Walter, Sebastian A Markett, Christian Montag, Martin Reuter. A genetic contribution to cooperation: dopamine-relevant genes are associated with social facilitation. Social neuroscience. 2011;6(3):289-301

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PMID: 21061227

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