Variation in oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) polymorphisms is associated with emotional and behavioral reactions to betrayal

Benjamin A. Tabak, Michael E. McCullough, Charles S. Carver, Eric J. Pedersen, Michael L. Cuccaro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Scopus citations


Variations in the gene that encodes the oxytocin receptor (OXTR) have been associated with many aspects of social cognition as well as several prosocial behaviors. However, potential associations of OXTR variants with reactions to betrayals of trust while cooperating for mutual benefit have not yet been explored. We examined how variations in 10 single-nucleotide polymorphisms on OXTR were associated with behavior and emotional reactions after a betrayal of trust in an iterated Prisoner's Dilemma Game. After correction for multiple testing, one haplotype (C-rs9840864, T-rs2268494) was significantly associated with faster retaliation post-betrayal-an association that appeared to be due to this haplotype's intermediate effect of exacerbating people's anger after they had been betrayed. Furthermore, a second haplotype (A-rs237887, C-rs2268490) was associated with higher levels of post-betrayal satisfaction, and a third haplotype (G-rs237887, C-rs2268490) was associated with lower levels of post-betrayal satisfaction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbernst042
Pages (from-to)810-816
Number of pages7
JournalSocial cognitive and affective neuroscience
Issue number6
StatePublished - Apr 2013



  • Betrayal
  • Cooperation
  • Emotional reactions
  • Oxytocin
  • Prisoner's dilemma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology

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