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Scientists Discover Gene For Ruthlessness

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the also-known-as-the-pointy-haired-gene dept.

Medicine 300

Pioneer Woman writes "Researchers at Hebrew University in Jerusalem have found a link between a gene called AVPR1a and ruthless behavior. These findings come from an economic exercise called the 'Dictator Game' that allows players to behave selflessly, or like national dictators and 'little Hitlers' found in workplaces the world over. The team decided to look at AVPR1a because it is known to produce receptors in the brain that detect vasopressin, a hormone involved in 'prosocial' behavior. Researchers tested DNA samples from more than 200 student volunteers, before asking the students to play the game that measured their altruism. There was no connection between the participants' gender and their behavior but there was a link to the length of the AVPR1a gene."

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300 comments

Does this mean (2, Funny)

EEPROMS (889169) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984150)

they have isolated the bastard aka SOB gene ?

Yes and mine is bigger than yours. (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22984658)

Yes and mine is bigger than yours.

hmm (5, Funny)

Sigvatr (1207234) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984154)

Better title: Jewish Scientists Have Explanation For Hitler

Re:hmm (2, Funny)

ChromeAeonium (1026952) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984338)

And all this time I though it was the mustache.

Re:hmm (4, Funny)

chuckymonkey (1059244) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984902)

Wow, even the summary pulled a Godwin.

Re:hmm (1)

MrNaz (730548) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984980)

I really hate it when idiots invoke Godwin's law upon a perfectly legitimate reference to Nazi Germany. Like this for instance:

http://xkcd.com/261/ [xkcd.com]

Re:hmm (4, Insightful)

LaskoVortex (1153471) | more than 6 years ago | (#22985304)

Wow, even the summary pulled a Godwin.

I agree. Instead of "Little Hitlers", they should have said "Little Napoleons". I wonder if overexpression of the AVPR1 gene also makes you seem short. That would explain a correlation between perceived height and incessant posturing, loud voices, and stomping around. That is to say, such behavior actually makes people seem shorter--I think it can actually take 2 to 3 inches off one's height. I've seen a 5'4" guy remark that a 5'5" guy had a Napolean's complex. I had to agree, the little Napolean that the 5'4" guy was referring to always seemed short while I never even thought about the 5'4" guy's height until that point (not a Little Napolean). But maybe we should cut Little Napoleans a break. Perhaps they can't help it, genetically speaking.

Can I have some? (5, Funny)

Rinisari (521266) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984164)

Can I have it infused into my DNA? I have too much ruth.

Re:Can I have some? (1)

prajjwal (965508) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984548)

you will still have part of ruth left (ruth-ness=ruth less ness) :)

Let me tell you about ruthlessness. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22984672)

Let me tell you about ruthlessness. I own a small business, with six employees. We do Flash games, web development, and other custom software projects. On Friday I wasn't feeling so well. A bit of the flu, I suppose. Regardless of my health, our work must go on. So there the entire company was, sitting in our 10'x10' meeting room with two representatives from one of our larger clients. In short, I shit my pants. It wasn't a solid shit, either. It was diarrhea that ended up dripping down my legs onto my shoes, and then onto the carpet. And in a meeting room as small as ours, packed with nine people in it, it isn't an enjoyable experience. Needless to say, the reps from our client were not impressed. And tomorrow I get to deal with the repercussions of the whole ordeal. Since I clean our office (we can't afford a cleaning firm), I'll probably get to clean up the now-dried stool that has no doubt been festering there all weekend.

Re:Can I have some? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22985160)

Look, if you want to get rid of me, just say so.

Ruth

Don't worry about that gene (1, Funny)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984166)

We'll get around to 'fixing' people's 'bad' genes.

Re:Don't worry about that gene (3, Funny)

Carthag (643047) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984216)

We'll get around to 'fixing' people's 'bad' genes.
That's a pretty ruthless thing to say!

Re:Don't worry about that gene (1)

MrNaz (730548) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984988)

That's ok, we can fix that right up with some gene therapy, then he won't be ruthless enough to suggest gene therap... oh.

Re:Don't worry about that gene (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22984462)

Bad genes, eh? As Adam Smith says, 'It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.' Sure, they can cause a good bit of destruction if left unchecked, but those 'bad' genes can also be pretty useful. (Provided some journalist with his head up his ass isn't calling Hitler on everything).

Re:Don't worry about that gene (1)

Dark_MadMax666 (907288) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984854)

Ermmm looks like a good gene to me! better than be a spineless pussy!

Ow man... (-1, Offtopic)

jack2000 (1178961) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984174)

Ow man you made me loose The Game!

oh the irony (-1, Flamebait)

m1ndrape (971736) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984198)

oh the irony of a hebrew research center practicing eugenics.

Re:oh the irony (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22984298)

oh the irony of a hebrew research center practicing eugenics.
I see no value judgments or political recommendations, beyond the poor (as usual) media coverage. Understanding how people are genetically different isn't instantly bad. Everyone knows a diverse gene pool is critical to survival, even if some traits are undesirable most of the time. Sadly, since Hitler was mentioned in the story, there's little point even discussing it.

Re:oh the irony (3, Interesting)

NeverVotedBush (1041088) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984992)

The rub is that people really are genetically different. While understanding differences is important to understanding how and why people respond differently to different medications, etc., it's just a little bitty hop to start deciding one person is "better" than another based on genetics.

Genetics is truly a double-edged sword. Just deciding that some gene needs to be "fixed" brings a value judgement with it. And that same little hop to deciding one person is better than another.

Hopefully it only gets as extreme as wanting to help fix other people's genes instead of exterminate them.

Re:oh the irony (4, Insightful)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984920)

oh the irony of a hebrew research center practicing eugenics.
I don't think that word means what you think it means.. Finding a correlation between a gene's length and biochemical changes which can result in altered behavior isn't the same as "practicing eugenics" any more than determining the gene responsible for phenylketonuria as an example.

Re:oh the irony (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22985060)

Haven't Jewish people traditionally carefully directed their reproduction, by only marrying other Jews? Whenever I read an article on Jpost or Haaretz I see those "Find Jewish singles!" ads, so I can only assume this is still going on quite a bit. So it wouldn't ironic at all, as Jews have traditionally employed something like eugenics for hundreds of years.

Games != real life (5, Insightful)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984220)

As all the gamers tell us, games != real life. People who kill many characters on FPS are not going to kill real people.

So why should ruthless behaviour in some game be linked to ruthlessness in life?

Re:Games != real life (1, Interesting)

Icarus1919 (802533) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984276)

Games don't equal real life, but the way you play does say something about you at a fundamental level. The type of people who enjoy fragging in CS and the type of people who play Hello Kitty Island Adventure are not one and the same (for the most part).

When I'm gaming I'm different (5, Interesting)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984432)

I call bullshit that there is something fundamental in behavior.

People modify their behavior, compassion, etc depending on context.

I'll help little old grannies across the road without mugging them, but when I play chess I'm ruthless. I will handle a fish that I've caught (catch and release) with great tenderness, but will wring a rabbit's neck or shoot a person if the situation demands.

One special forces person I knew a while ago shot up some real people, laid some landmines then later that day rolled his car swerving to miss a small animal on the road.

Re:When I'm gaming I'm different (-1, Troll)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984636)

One special forces person I knew a while ago shot up some real people, laid some landmines then later that day rolled his car swerving to miss a small animal on the road.
Funny, there isn't a cow around for miles, but I smell bullshit.

Re:When I'm gaming I'm different (0)

jazir1979 (637570) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984684)


umm.. did u mean cowshit? or that there isn't a bull around for miles?

Re:When I'm gaming I'm different (-1, Troll)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984754)

You know that bulls are cows, right?

I ask because I once knew an American who didn't know that lambs were sheep.

Re:When I'm gaming I'm different (1)

jazir1979 (637570) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984830)

yeah yeah, i know, and i'm not American incidentally .. but there was still no reason for the original comment to be ambiguous - there could still be lots of cows around and lots of cowshit, but no bullshit.

aaaanyway .. i suppose if i'm going to be a pedant i have to expect it to be thrown back at me.

Re:When I'm gaming I'm different (0)

Pinckney (1098477) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984900)

You know that bulls are cows, right?
No. "Cow" is specific to females. "Bull" is specific to males. The word you are looking for is "ox." OED:

Ox: 1. a. A large cloven-hoofed, often horned ruminant mammal, Bos taurus (family Bovidae), derived from the extinct Eurasian aurochs and long domesticated for its milk, meat, and hide; a cow, a bull; (in pl.) cattle. Freq. spec.: a castrated adult male of this animal, esp. as used as a draught animal; a bullock.

Re:When I'm gaming I'm different (-1, Flamebait)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984914)

You're an idiot.

Re:When I'm gaming I'm different (1)

Pinckney (1098477) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984956)

No. "Cow" is specific to females. "Bull" is specific to males. The word you are looking for is "ox."
You're an idiot.
On reflection, as the plural forms are relevant to this discussion, it seems that yes, I am. "Cattle" would have been the correct word.

Re:When I'm gaming I'm different (1)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984758)

umm.. did u mean cowshit? or that there isn't a bull around for miles?
They live together. Get out of the city someday, you might learn something.

Re:When I'm gaming I'm different (5, Funny)

evwah (954864) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984774)

I'm trying to imagine a situation that would demand the wringing of a rabbit's neck. I mean I hate easter too, but DAMN

Re:When I'm gaming I'm different (2, Insightful)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984858)

I've done this more times than I can count. We don't like rabbits around here. Reach into rabbit hole. Pull out rabbit. Twist neck. This is particularly productive with baby rabbits (have pulled 9 out of one hole).

Re:When I'm gaming I'm different (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 6 years ago | (#22985116)

I'm trying to imagine a situation that would demand the wringing of a rabbit's neck. I mean I hate easter too, but DAMN
You, sir, are clearly not familiar with Sluggy Freelance [sluggy.com] .

Re:When I'm gaming I'm different (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 6 years ago | (#22985232)

You just never know! Jimmy Carter came close [wikipedia.org] .

Sometimes a hand grenade [wikipedia.org] is overkill.

It's coming right for us!

Re:When I'm gaming I'm different (1)

monoqlith (610041) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984922)

It's a little more complex than is indicated by the examples we're using. There are different rules that govern a game than govern real life. You get psychological points for helping little old grannies across the road, just as you get psychological points for playing ruthless chess, because that's what's asked for by the game. But I imagine you might also seize an opportunity for professional self-advancement just as aggressively as you play chess if a fair one presented to you and you could capture it within your moral rules and the rules of society at large. Even our most altruistic actions require a reward, even if it is only personal satisfaction.

Re:When I'm gaming I'm different (0, Redundant)

Dan541 (1032000) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984924)

I slaughter people in GTA but the risk of jail time stops me in everyday life.

Re:Games != real life (1)

jonaskoelker (922170) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984678)

Games don't equal real life, but the way you play does say something about you at a fundamental level.
Let's see... at a fundamental level, it appears I would like to be a penguin (supertux). No wait, a penguin king (chess). In fact, a space-faring (kobodeluxe), italian, plumbing (mario) penguin king with a bow and a grappling hook (Zelda). Hey, that Ilia chick is hot. And I'd like laser blades on my arms (starcraft zealots), an army of skeletons (D2 necro), and a bunch of Japanese letters (kanatest).

That's how fucking cool I'm gonna' be.

Re:Games != real life (2, Interesting)

rtb61 (674572) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984310)

From my under standing the way children play will reflect in the kind of adults they become. Good sportsmanship ahead of winning, I know it's so terribly old fashioned in mass media and modern marketing, but it is true they way people play reflect the kind of people they are.

Certainly a high risk of harm to others gene really does put an odd slant on genetic testing. Think of all those sociopath corporate types who want genetic testing to exclude people from health insurance or employment, now they might have pause to rethink that whole idea when it would be aimed at them.

Really interesting though, a political gene, short and limp, your a republican and long and firm your a social democrat. Now that certainly does explain a few things.

Re:Games != real life (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984442)

"Really interesting though, a political gene, short and limp, your a republican and long and firm your a social democrat. Now that certainly does explain a few things."

what are you trying to suggest? that being a democrat means you have a large penis? making such suggestions is a sign of insecurity.

Re:Games != real life (4, Interesting)

killmenow (184444) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984336)

I am a gamer and I'll agree that games are not real life. But I must say, I wouldn't kill people in real life because there are repercussions. I can kill all the bad guys (or good guys if I feel like it) in a game and there are no REAL consequences. In real life, that's not so...so killing = bad.

But if I were a dictator and had total control of my country, the repercussions for cracking down and killing thousands of people may not be so bad. First order of business: institute mandatory DNA registrations, checking every person for AVPR1a and killing all the other ruthless people.

Re:Games != real life (1)

DaedalusHKX (660194) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984876)

Now you're getting it.

Besides, socially well adjusted people are cattle. Look at history. All change is wrought by those who could NOT adjust or eat their bowl of porridge as proscribed by the lords and masters.

And you just said it. Its fear of counter attacks or return violence that keeps violent people in check. Government has rarely successfully done this. If they start fucking with people's genes to try to "adjust" them to "society", I'm going to laugh. Nature will find a way, as it always has, and then, amusingly, the few left with savage (read SURVIVOR) genes, will slaughter the rest of the peons on a whim and steal whatever they please... hmmm, I guess they'd become rulers again.

Hey, doesn't that rhyme with past history, since agricultural sedentary cultures have been around?

Re:Games != real life (1)

memorycardfull (1187485) | more than 6 years ago | (#22985014)

I think the idea is to hire all the ruthless people, not kill them. Then you have them kill all the defiant people, including the ruthless ones. I wonder if they can discover a gene for defiance?

Re:Games != real life (2, Interesting)

AJWM (19027) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984554)

Most people who kill many characters on FPS are not going to kill real people.

There, fixed that for you. There have been a few notable exceptions.

Re:Games != real life (1)

Hemogoblin (982564) | more than 6 years ago | (#22985086)

Name one.

Re:Games != real life (3, Insightful)

Thing 1 (178996) | more than 6 years ago | (#22985244)

Most people who drink mother's milk are not going to kill real people.

There, fixed that for you. There have been a few notable exceptions.

Re: Games != real life (1)

monoqlith (610041) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984852)

Games != real life, but there is a relationship between behavior in a game and behavior in real life, even if it's not based on killing people. Someone who is very competitive in a video game is probably also very competitive in his real-life behavior, even if this doesn't translate literally to killing people in real life. Behavior and success in a game must be based on some aspect of the mind of the player, and it isn't unreasonable to say that the same psychology which compels us to succeed in the game will compel us to succeed in different ways in real life. It's connected with our pleasure-reward system. I might kill you in a game to win points, but in real life I might accuse you of charging too much to your expense account in front of our boss so that he/she promotes me to your position(obviously this is an extreme example). Same actors, same psychological tendency, same pleasure reward, different circumstances. Furthermore, I'm sure that many would agree that a predisposition towards ruthlessness often comes with a predisposition towards viewing one's day to day interactions as a kind of game where the goal is to win. So this sort of enhances any transfer of any game behavior into real life interactions.

Re:Games != real life (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22985110)

Yes, but you missed the article where the Israeli Defense Force considers those who play certain games (Dungeons & Dragons specifically) to be security risks. Recruits to the IDF are asked specifically whether they play Dungeons & Dragons or not. If they answer "yes" they are sent to a psychologist for evaluation with many never being allowed into positions that require "high" security.

You and I may believe that there is a separation between games and real life, however the Israelies don't share this view.

Re:Games != real life (1)

budgenator (254554) | more than 6 years ago | (#22985168)

Ideally what should have been done is to have people play the game, and then see what correlations can be drawn between the simulation and real life. It's easy to make a test, it's difficult to make a valid test.

Re:Games != real life (1)

Aegis Runestone (1248876) | more than 6 years ago | (#22985182)

I agree. We're responsible for our own behavior. Just because a gene has some sort of capability to make us more reckless, or cruel, doesn't mean we can't learn to restrain that behavior.

We're agents, we have agency, we can choose any choice we want. These types of things like this 'gene' just make it a little more difficult for us to make that choice, yet we can still choose to make it!

Somehow I don't buy it (1)

the_humeister (922869) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984232)

The details aren't long on the game, but it gives two options for players: "dictator" and "receiver". They gave dictators money and told them to either keep it or give some away. Now if you were in the "dictator" group, wouldn't you want to keep the money? It's just a game, not real life.

AVPR? Did anyone else think of the movie? (1)

aristotle-dude (626586) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984236)

Did they named the gene after the movie "Alien Versus Predator Requiem"?

Repeat after me (3, Interesting)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984256)

Correlation is not causation. Among other things, the hormone they're claiming is involved is also linked to about a dozen other things- the wikipedia article linked to is a veritable laundry list of basic body functions.

Side memo to the press: Stop. Dumbing. Down. Science.

Re:Repeat after me (2, Insightful)

snl2587 (1177409) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984300)

Side memo to the press: Stop. Dumbing. Down. Science.

But then it wouldn't be the press. Since when has scientific thinking had a place in mainstream journalism?

Re:Repeat after me (3, Insightful)

chunk08 (1229574) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984434)

And why should we assume that Joe Public can understand science? If that was the case, there would be no use for graduate degrees. The MSM is just an entertainment medium. Only a small percentage of us actually care about being correct. That's why I hang around /. Regardless of all the jokes, people here do care about being right. I say this even disagreeing with many of the general opinions around here.

Re:Repeat after me (1)

RobinH (124750) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984392)

Correlation is not causation.

I was thinking just that, but to say that ruthlessness can have an effect on a gene doesn't make much sense to me, so I'm willing to go out on a limb here and say that the gene is the independent variable, and the behavior is a dependent variable. I'm not saying it's a direct causal relationship, as there are bound to be other factors at play here.

Re:Repeat after me (4, Informative)

icegreentea (974342) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984452)

The article never says cause, always link (which could be either correlation or causation). Article also says that the gene in question regulates something about vasopressin receptors in the brain, so vasopressin's effects on the rest of the body can be ignored. The hormone in question also governs aggression, aspects of social interaction, as well as (suspected) the bond making ability between humans (love, if you will). I see some link/relation between these and ruthlessness. It's fine to criticize the press for dumbing down science. But pick the right articles to criticize. Just as slashdot is not one homogeneous body of people unable to hold contradicting opinions, the press is not one homogeneous body of people unable to write to different levels of competent and accuracy. This might not be the best article/research, but they're pretty good.

Re:Repeat after me (1)

BorgCopyeditor (590345) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984764)

That was helpfully put. Still, the Slashdot headline reads "Scientists Discover Gene for Ruthlessness," and so will many others.

Re:Repeat after me (1)

nacturation (646836) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984526)

Correlation is not causation. Stop. Dumbing. Down. Science.
Thank you for the simplified explanation. :)
 

Correlates strongly with +5 moderations... (3, Insightful)

Guppy (12314) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984662)

You are correct that "correlation is not causation". This particular statement seems to be trotted out in any research-related posting and appears to be highly correlated with an increase in +5 moderations within science topics. However, we also have a postulated mechanism, which has already been previously explored and found plausible, and some experimental evidence from animal models.

For instance Prarie Voles and Vasopressin [bbc.co.uk] , in which by manipulating the Vasopressin V1a gene, males of a normally promiscuous species of Vole were rendered monagamous (and more attentive to their single mates). Only partially relevant, but suggestive.

Most importantly, it points at the possibility of producing directly relevant evidence in future experimental model (in which the species selected would be one that exhibits both "altruistic" and "ruthless" behaviors). I don't imagine such an experiment would be quick or cheap, as more socially sophisticated species tend to be more difficult to work with.

In any case, it sounds like your comment is directed at the particular news article (which mentions very little of the background), and not at the research in particular -- am I incorrect in drawing this distinction?

Re:Repeat after me (1)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984930)

Side memo to the press: Stop. Dumbing. Down. Everything.
Fixed.

another personality trait? (5, Insightful)

cynicsreport (1125235) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984270)

Can we put these headlines to rest, please?
I mean the "Scientist discovers gene for [insert personality trait here]".
Some of these get pretty inane; ruthlessness, for example, is defined by behavior, and is subjective!
And don't forget: these studies are nearly meaningless, even if they are talking about something that can be defined rationally:

1. The study evaluates 'ruthlessness' based on subjects playing a game. (Not by observing reality)
2. The study involves 200 student volunteers. Not exactly a representative sample!
3. The article generalizes these dubious results to make inferences about the genetics of dictators.
4. The study has not yet been repeated to duplicate these results (A necessary step to 'prove' something)

Re:another personality trait? (3, Informative)

chunk08 (1229574) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984328)

Agreed. Genes do not "turn off/on" certain functions like a checkbox in a properties/preferences dialog. Genetic science can provide many wonderful things, but we will never be able to alter a gene to "make sure the baby is smart" or "keep him from being anti-social." As usual, the mainstream press sensationalizes science and contributes to the dumbing down already far advanced by public^Wgovernment education.

Re:another personality trait? (2, Informative)

Baron_Yam (643147) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984756)

Bullshit.

I'm smarter than my cats, and that's genetic. There will be a day when IQ can be adjusted genetically.

Some primates are social, some aren't - gorillas vs orangutans, and that's genetic. There will be a day when the need for social approval can be adjusted genetically.

Re:another personality trait? (1)

chunk08 (1229574) | more than 6 years ago | (#22985052)

OK. Maybe I wasn't clear enough.

I'm smarter than my cats, and that's genetic.
Yes, intelligence, muscular structure, blue eyes, etc. are encoded in genes, but a difference in a certain gene does not simply turn on/off one specific trait or select between traits. Modify a gene and you mess with a whole bunch of stuff at once. That's why genetic science is so difficult.

There will be a day when IQ can be adjusted genetically.

Some primates are social, some aren't - gorillas vs orangutans, and that's genetic. There will be a day when the need for social approval can be adjusted genetically.
I doubt it. You can't simply "adjust" something genetically. That's the whole misconception. We would have to learn to write genetic code ourselves, and we are a long way from that. All we can do is piece together what we have to try to make something happen, and we end up screwing it up more often than not. Reverse engineering genetic code is a much scarier challenge than reverse engineering Windows. (BTW, I know that there is work being done on this, see ReactOS [reactos.org] )

Re:another personality trait? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22985184)

This is your cat. I do not appreciate the comment you made regarding my intellect. Comparing the genetic mental complexity of my species to the (relatively speaking) simple bowl of jelly between your ears is akin to comparing apples to tuna. Ooh, I love tuna.

I demand that you cease this inflammatory specieist rhetoric immediately, or I will be forced to take extreme measures. It certainly would be a shame if your car were to explode the next time you hit the ignition, if you catch my drift.

Signed,
Your cat

Now feed me you bipedal freak.

Re:another personality trait? (1)

stephanruby (542433) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984536)

5. This study evaluates 'ruthlessness' based on a money board game.
6. This study pinpoints a very specific gene, but ignores the most important criteria for winning money board games; cultural upbringing, personal experience, current education, and socio-economic class.

Making half-baked absolute generalizations about people's ingrained behaviors based on a gene is a very-very dangerous idea. It could be made to say anything the person (I won't say scientist) leading the study wants to believe.

Re:another personality trait? (1)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984802)

And quite importantly, even if they do find a link between a human behavior and a genetic quality they do not yet know how that genetic variation is involved per se'

It might be simply that this particular genetic variation in combination with 27 others causes the person to be more likely to perceive of a situation in a given way, leading to ruthless behaviors. The fact remains that genetic variations are not understood well enough to say that gene XYZ causes such and such behavior.

Re:another personality trait? (1)

Cosmic AC (1094985) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984806)

The study evaluates 'ruthlessness' based on subjects playing a game. (Not by observing reality)

The game is reality. A small repeatable subset of reality where conditions can be controlled. Welcome to science.

Some of these get pretty inane; ruthlessness, for example, is defined by behavior, and is subjective!

Ruthlessness in this context would be objectively defined by the scientists who conducted this study.

And don't forget: these studies are nearly meaningless

Isn't that also a subjective judgement?

More testing please (3, Insightful)

ChromeAeonium (1026952) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984302)

They gave a small amount of cash ($14 USD) to some people to see how they would behave, and now they're claiming they found a gene that's partly responsible for the actions of famous dictators and mass murderers. They're reading a heck of lot into this, aren't they? Who's to say that, for example, short AVPR1a genes aren't a trait of a particular group of people in the region who are just a bit more strapped for cash. Yeah, I just pulled that example out of the usual place, but it'd be nice if people would actually run their hypothesis through a few more tests before making such bold claims. Then again, I guess those grant checks don't write themselves...

Re:More testing please (1)

chunk08 (1229574) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984410)

Ah yes. Sad isn't it, that science has become as political as everything else? Small variations are read as huge trends, and the gullible public feeds money into it. (In this case, indirectly though government grants.) Of what possible use is this study? Are we going to change everyone's genes to make sure they don't act like dictators?

We would be in a very sad place, with no one with a motivation to lead. Bad character traits are just overmanifestations (is that a word?) of good ones.

Now we can round 'em and shoot 'em ! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22984378)

Now we can test the whole population, and take the defectives out to a big ditch the woods and shoot them and cover them with lime and bulldoze it over !

On second thought, belay that; I'm getting myself tested first.

Everything now is a disease (2, Interesting)

LM741N (258038) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984384)

What ever happened to personal responsibility? just about every vice in our society now is handled by psychologists instead of jail guards.

Re:Everything now is a disease (1)

Pennidren (1211474) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984418)

my genes caused me to reply to your comment and call you a moron

Re:Everything now is a disease (4, Funny)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984650)

What ever happened to personal responsibility? just about every vice in our society now is handled by psychologists instead of jail guards.

This from someone who lives in a country home to the world's worst health care system and highest incarceration rates.

Re:Everything now is a disease (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22984760)

That's a pretty big fallacy. Guilt by association is a weak point from which to argue.

Granted, the EU's rates fall far below that of the US in totem, and I will admit that the US has to balance power back to the individual states as mandated in the Constitution. However, you're attacking a person's position based on his locality, assuming he/she is complicit in the decisions of the governing body.

That's just plain ignorant, and you know better than that. What passes for "psychologist" in the US is a joke, and most of them need (and have) their own therapists. That's a broken system, no matter which way you examine it. I don't necessarily agree with OP that incarceration is a better solution to therapy/rehabilitation in most cases. Then again, with the current system that wants to lock people up for personal possession of marijuana while letting judges and officers off with DUIs, it's hard to present alternatives that don't scrap the present system and reset it to zero.

Not really sure what I'm saying, other than don't attack false premises. Yes, the USA has many broken things in it, but you can't assume honest citizens aren't working on it, or that the grandparent post wasn't presenting a realistic, short-term solution while a longer-term overhaul was in place.

Re:Everything now is a disease (1)

TempeTerra (83076) | more than 6 years ago | (#22985210)

I don't know where you got the false premise idea from, or the US vs EU angle. Paraphrasing:

OP: "just about every vice in our [presumably US] society now is handled by psychologists instead of jail guards". By implication, more people should be imprisoned.

GP: The United States has the highest documented incarceration rate[1] and total documented prison population in the world[2] [wikipedia.org] and you say we need to lock more people up?

OP appears to be authoritarian fringe psychologist bashing and rapidly drifting off topic, God only knows how they got modded up.

Re:Everything now is a disease (2, Insightful)

schnikies79 (788746) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984788)

Worlds worst health care?

You seriously have to be joking. Never mind. That comment is really one of the more ignorant things I've ever read on Slashdot.

Re:Everything now is a disease (1)

chunk08 (1229574) | more than 6 years ago | (#22985072)

This argues from an assumption that there is no personal responsibility for healthcare.
I don't want the government running my healthcare, thank you, they've managed to screw up international affairs, wireless communications, taxes, roads, telecommunications, and regulation of food so far...

I'm a drakuvich, and I agree (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22984398)

I also guess that it skips a generation or the gene wouldn't have been passed down

The gene name... (3, Funny)

espergreen (849246) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984404)

The Ayn Rand gene?

Easier test (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22984420)

Why bother running a DNA test? An advanced degree of most any sort is a dead giveaway that they've been ruthless at some point. I mean, seriously, have you ever worked with PhDs before?

Godwin'd (5, Funny)

Rebelgecko (893016) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984426)

Sheesh, Godwin's law came into play before I even finished reading the summary.

"have found a link" is quite an overstatement (1)

siddesu (698447) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984520)

"having found a link" would imply that in addition to the (possible) correlation described in the article, there was some mechanism that directly links the gene to the behaviour.

instead, we have wild speculation, an analogy with a different behaviour in a different species and a generalization that is not supported by what is described in the RTFA.

Link to the game? (1)

Overkill Nbuta (1035654) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984582)

Where can i get to play this game and see how Ruthless i am?

Don't let the lawyers here of this. Or the Psychs (1)

Annoid (1160621) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984592)

Ungh. Next we'll here people using this as a legal defense for all sorts of nonsense.

And, of course, we'll have the psychologists lining up at the door with expensive treatment options...

Dictator Game (1)

CarlHungus (887065) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984628)

Has anybody been able to track down the link to the "Dictator Game"? It sounds like fun.

Great! (1)

CptPicard (680154) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984642)

Embryo diagnostics for Libertarianism!! Finally. I knew there is something physiologically wrong with them :)

Now if they could find this one I'd be happy (1)

kilodelta (843627) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984698)

I'm talking about the genetic profile that makes a person a flaming asshole. I've run across a number of those during my life and I just need to find the explanation.

I wonder if it influences (1)

MeditationSensation (1121241) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984724)

"secret" ruthlessness. In computer games (e.g. Civilization) and other private areas, I'm very ruthless. But in real life, I can't bring myself to be that way.

Saddam Hussein's lineage (0, Troll)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984798)

It's been well established that Saddam and his two sons are sociopaths. In fact, his daughter Raghdad showed similer behavior traits as well. I've always had a hard time believing these were just problems from how they were raised as a family. Given the heinousness of their actions, I'm willing to bet there is a genetic link.

Question is, will we ever run DNA tests? If we have, will the results ever be accessable under the Freedom of Information Act?

Psychopathy. (3, Informative)

Fantastic Lad (198284) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984826)

I doubt if it can be tagged to a single gene, but certain traits which make up the basket deal of psychopathy certainly results from differently-functioning brains.

The distinctive brains of psychopaths. [thecanadia...opedia.com]


"But for psychopaths, the word 'cancer' and the word 'table' had the same emotional connotations - which is to say, not very many. It's as if they're emotionally color-blind."

Even more staggering were the findings of a study conducted by New York City psychiatrist Joanne Intrator, with Hare's collaboration, at the Bronx Veterans Administration hospital in 1993. The investigators employed the same language test, this time injecting the subjects with a radioactive tracer and scanning color images of their brains. As normal subjects processed the emotion-laden words, their brains lit up with activity, particularly in the areas around the ventromedial frontal cortex and amygdala. The former plays a crucial role in controlling impulses and long-term planning, while the amygdala is often described as "the seat of emotion." But in the psychopaths, those parts of the brain appeared to remain inactive while processing the emotion-laden words. That, says Hare, helps explain why a psychopath's conscience is only half-formed. "I showed the scans to several neurologists," recalls Hare. "They said that it did not even look like a human brain. One of them asked, 'Is this person from Mars?' "

According to Scientific American. [sciam.com]
Not surprisingly, psychopaths are overrepresented in prisons; studies indicate that about 25 percent of inmates meet diagnostic criteria for psychopathy. Nevertheless, research also suggests that a sizable number of psychopaths may be walking among us in everyday life. Some investigators have even speculated that "successful psychopaths" - those who attain prominent positions in society - may be overrepresented in certain occupations, such as politics, business and entertainment. Yet the scientific evidence for this intriguing conjecture is preliminary.

One in 100. [financialpost.com]
One person in 100 is a psychopath, meaning that they lack a moral compass, sense of responsibility or empathy (this is a personality disorder, not a mental illness). And although they are overrepresented in the prison system, according to research by American psychologist Dr. Paul Babiak, and his Canadian counterpart Dr. Robert Hare, psychopaths are also well-represented in corporate environments.


here's a story [news.com.au] about what I'd say is a very black & white likely case of psychopathy, and one at its worst, at least on a small scale.

The above link being pretty heavy, I thought I'd offer this lighter fare; A pseudo-scientific test [damninteresting.com] to measure yourself on the psychopath-meter.

If you're going to navigate your pathway through reality, (down the river of life), you need to know where the rocks are if you're going to be able to avoid crashing into them. Christianity and the like has programmed all kinds of self-destructive behavior into human-kind. "Turn the other cheek" is an example of social programming which makes us food for the psychopathic human-type, --the type which I would guess is generally in charge of countries and most of the most powerful organizations which shape our lives; the psychopath recognizes its own and shapes the rules of the world to benefit itself, and study of the power structures over the centuries, doesn't really ever let go once the seat of power is attained. --Christ's supposed dying on the cross, (which I am doubtful actually happened for a variety of reasons, not the least of which being accounts of his living well past his fifties according to St. Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, one of the most eminent of the ante-Nicene theologians in 180 AD who wrote about John and various other apostles hanging out with Jesus long after the supposed crucifixion. Of course the gospels Irenaeus references have been 'lost' by the church, but the amount of squidging the Church did to the various bible stories is so shamefully prodigious, this shouldn't come as any surprise. But I digress), --was a program of massive ramifications which has suckered countless millions into adopting self-damaging behavior whereby one believes that it is better to put up with being bled by an abuser than it is to do something about the abuser in their lives. "Suffer with quiet dignity and you'll be rewarded in some fake afterlife which we really, really promise you'll get, honest. Please give generously to the collection plate."


-FL

doesn't seem like a plausible experiment (1)

superwiz (655733) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984834)

ethics aside, the selfish vs altruistic behavior is not necessarily a subconscious response. The topic of "goodness" vs "badness" of the two views has dominated the debate of the last century. So different cultural trends have emerged that surround both views. It is entirely possible that someone more wired for selfish behavior has learned to value cooperation over self-achievement through cultural pressure (ok, peer pressure) or that someone wired for altruistic behavior has been exposed to the argument that only by acting in self-interest (but doing so without resorting to deception) can we all deal with each other fairly. Without starting a debate on which one is more valuable or more "human" or "will win in the end", this seems like an experiment that tried to establish the "nature" of the beast by simple behavior observation. But behavior-observation experiments can never explain away "nurture" bias.

Why is everyone reacting so negatively? (1)

Ichoran (106539) | more than 6 years ago | (#22984872)

The overwhelming consensus on both this forum and the comments attached to the Nature page are negative. Okay, fine, the dictator stuff is highly speculative--there's some blame to be apportioned for that.

But the nearly universal negative reaction suggests to me that something else is going on too--some sort of visceral objection to the content, perhaps?

The vasopressin/vasopressin receptor story is an interesting one, worked out best in prairie voles and mice, and the results of this study are basically consistent with previous studies. There isn't much new here to get excited about, except to note that, gee, it looks like humans are mammals too (who'd have thought!)--and the mildly interesting result that dictator games are one place where the difference in vasopressin signaling correlates with behavior.

So shouldn't the appropriate stance be something like, "Huh, kinda interesting, wish they hadn't written up so much over-the-top speculation. (Wish they hadn't done that on this cancer story, either, or this one on biofuels, or that one on....)"?

If the problem is that one is worried that genes control your behavior--sorry, news flash, your genetic makeup is important! It's one of the consequences of being a physically implemented being. This doesn't mean that you are completely at the whim of your genetic makeup. That is the whole point of having a cortex, you know, to modify your behavior in ways that are too complex for genes to do alone!

Almost everyone is not a ruthless genocidal dictator, so if you happen upon someone with an overly short AVPR1a gene, maybe you should realize it's a little harder for them to be unselfish, so they need a little more encouragement for it to become a habit. And if you have an overly short AVPR1 gene, maybe you can remember if you're feeling particularly greedy that your feelings in this matter might be poorly calibrated (especially if they seem to have been badly calibrated in the past), so you should think about what you're about to do a little more carefully.

Brains are really cool, especially when they're used.

If true, this explains a stereotype (3, Interesting)

SUB7IME (604466) | more than 6 years ago | (#22985054)

Vasopressin is also known as antidiuretic hormone (ADH). ADH increases arterial blood pressure.

If the findings of this study are true, they may help explain the stereotype of the aggressive, ruthless management-type-figure with bulging neck veins suffering from a heart attack.

So once we find the gene for... (2, Funny)

bluemonq (812827) | more than 6 years ago | (#22985120)

...chair throwing, we can understand how Steve Ballmer came to be!

Yes, I'm Ruthless (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 6 years ago | (#22985198)

But now I can have my Kate and Edith [lyricsdepot.com] too
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