Study: Genes affect economic decisions

Oct. 2, 2007 at 3:41 PM
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STOCKHOLM, Sweden, Oct. 2 (UPI) -- Swedish-led researchers have determined genes can significantly influence people's behavior in making economic choices.

The study involved an experimental game in which a proposer makes an offer to a responder on how to divide a sum of money. The offer is an ultimatum, since if the responder rejects it, both parties receive nothing.

To study genetic influence, the scientists recruited twins and since identical twins share the same genes, but fraternal twins don't, the researchers were able to detect genetic influences by comparing the similarity with which identical and fraternal twins played the game.

The findings suggest genetic influences account for as much as 40 percent of the variation in people's economic behaviors, with identical twins more likely to play with the same strategy than fraternal twins.

"This raises the intriguing possibility that many of our preferences and personal economic choices are subject to substantial genetic influence," said Bjorn Wallace and Magnus Johannesson of the Stockholm School of Economics.

The research that included Massachusetts Institute of Technology doctoral student David Cesarini and Paul Lichtenstein of the Swedish Twin Registry appears in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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