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

Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2014 Jun;9(6):810-6. doi: 10.1093/scan/nst042. Epub 2013 Apr 1.


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.

Keywords: betrayal; cooperation; emotional reactions; oxytocin; prisoner’s dilemma.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anger
  • Emotions*
  • Female
  • Game Theory*
  • Genotyping Techniques
  • Haplotypes
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide*
  • Psychological Tests
  • Receptors, Oxytocin / genetics*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Social Behavior*
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult


  • OXTR protein, human
  • Receptors, Oxytocin