Genetic moderation of sensitivity to positive and negative affect in marriage

Emotion. 2012 Apr;12(2):208-12. doi: 10.1037/a0026067. Epub 2011 Dec 12.


Hypothesizing that genetic factors partially govern sensitivity to interpersonal cues, we examined whether a polymorphism (5-HTTLPR) in the serotonin transporter gene would moderate spouses' sensitivity to positive and negative partner affect. Before and after marital discussions, participants from 76 couples (total n = 150) reported their affective states. Spouses carrying the short allele of the 5-HTTLPR were more responsive to their partner's preinteraction positive affect and anxiety/nervousness, compared with spouses with two long alleles. These data support the contention that the serotonin system influences affective responses to social stimuli. In contrast to the view that the 5-HTTLPR primarily affects response to adverse experiences, these results suggest that this polymorphism moderates sensitivity to positive as well as negative affect.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect*
  • Alleles*
  • Arousal / genetics*
  • Awareness / physiology*
  • Cues*
  • Family Conflict / psychology*
  • Female
  • Genetic Carrier Screening
  • Genotype*
  • Glycine Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins / genetics*
  • Haplotypes / genetics
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Polymorphism, Genetic / genetics
  • Social Perception*
  • Social Support
  • Young Adult


  • Glycine Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins
  • SLC6A5 protein, human