Science of Love, Sex, and Babies

POLL: Would you test him for the “cheating gene”?

Posted in Polls and Surveys by jenapincott on September 29, 2008

Imagine there’s a genetic test that could reveal your man’s chances of being a cheater — or, at least, a difficult long-term companion. Would you make him take it?  Turns out we’re one step closer to having the option.

Can your genes make you cheat? is one question posed in BLONDES.  To answer, I mention recent studies on the monogamous prairie vole and the role of vasopressin, a hormone associated with monogamy.  Prairie voles are much more monogamous than their cousins, the montane vole, and the difference might boil down to different variants of vasopressin receptor genes in the two species. (Vasopressin receptors exist in regions of the brain related to trust, reward, and bonding, including the ventral tegmental area or VTA.)  Scientists have  since speculated that men, too, might vary in their vasopressin receptor genes….and that might make all the difference between faithful guys and cheating rats.

Now there’s more concrete evidence that men do indeed differ in their vasopressin receptor genes, and that that a single genetic variation affects their love lives.  Hasse Wallum , a medical epidemiologist at the Karolinska Institute, found that men who had one or two copies of allele RS3 334, a variant of a vasopressin receptor gene, were more likely to have relationship crises than men who lacked the variant. The wives of guys with the variant cited more relationship problems than did women married to men without the variant.  Interestingly, studies have also found that autistic men are more likely to have copies of this wayward gene variant.

Although the study stresses that men with RS3 334 alleles aren’t guaranteed to be romantic duds and deadends — after all,  the effects are modest, other genes may be involved, and cultural factors have their sway — but it inspires the imagination.  What do you do if your man has the “cheating” gene, putting your relationship at greater risk of strife and infidelity?  Do you still date him – or do you dump him?  Would you even want to know? 

So, do you test him?

(Thoughts welcome in comment box below.)

12 Responses

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  1. Monica said, on September 30, 2008 at 11:04 pm

    Just think how great this could be! If woman only mated with monogamous men, we could completely eliminate “cheaters” from the species!

  2. Shawn said, on October 7, 2008 at 2:37 am

    The previous comment from “Monica” assumes that only men cheat, or could be geneticly predisposed to cheat, or that cheating men would not be valuable to have as OFFSPRING. Stop advocating your demographic, and you will find your full range of self-interest. Also, are you sure you want to be detiministic and “choose” your offspring’s characteristics? Or that the ‘cheating gene’ doesn’t fullfill some other quite valuable function? Look at the cystic fibrosis gene. Remember whenever you comteplate unexpectable results, that all the best change happens at a ninety degree angle from the way that it looks like events are heading.

  3. […] When, exactly, does the VTA dim in most relationships, and why, and how to prevent it? We know from other studies that there are certain hormone receptors in the VTA that influence pair-bonds in sexual […]

  4. […] a contented slumber). This means that sexual intimacy may make a guy more attached to his lover. How likely is this? Intriguingly, a lot may have to do with his particular vasopressin receptor […]

  5. […] a contented slumber). This means that sexual intimacy may make a guy more attached to his lover. How likely is this? Intriguingly, a lot may have to do with his particular vasopressin receptor […]

  6. santocasto said, on January 13, 2009 at 6:54 pm

    a positive result suggest a male chastity belt 24×7

  7. […] and hormonal basis of bonding and what it might mean for humans. On a related topic, check out my cheating gene post.) The first question inspired by this research is “Can a drug make you fall in love?” […]

  8. […] most at this phase of your life? And if you’re the type who has commitment problems — for some, there may even be a biological basis — should you even get married in the first […]

  9. Nichelle Cobourn said, on March 10, 2010 at 2:29 pm

    Good post, thanks a lot!

  10. […] mouth swab test available Posted in news by jenapincott on May 8, 2010 In BLONDES and in this post I write about the so-called “cheating […]

  11. Vak said, on August 14, 2010 at 11:58 am

    if genetics were everything, you could test the person I suppose. My problem with this experiment is that it is biased towards heterosexuals. Also, what about women who are unfaithful? Is that genes or learned behaviour?

  12. Anna said, on March 31, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    I’ve cheated before, and whenever I get into a new relationship I let the other person know. And since I have attempted not to cheat whenever in a relationship, I’m feeling good about my lack of cheating. However, I wouldn’t want to get a test done just to find out that yes, I have a high chance of cheating or whatever.
    So while it’d be nice for me to want to get my partner tested, if they wanted me to get tested as well I’d feel a bit awkward.
    Overall therefore, I probably wouldn’t want them tested just because even if it’s written in your genes, some things you can try and overcome.


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