Oxytocin Receptor (OXTR) Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms Indirectly Predict Prosocial Behavior Through Perspective Taking and Empathic Concern

Christa C. Christ, Gustavo Carlo, Scott F. Stoltenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

27 Scopus citations


Engaging in prosocial behavior can provide positive outcomes for self and others. Prosocial tendencies contribute to the propensity to engage in prosocial behavior. The oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) has also been associated with prosocial tendencies and behaviors. There has been little research, however, investigating whether the relationship between OXTR and prosocial behaviors is mediated by prosocial tendencies. This relationship may also vary among different types of prosocial behavior. The current study examines the relationship between OXTR, gender, prosocial tendencies, and both altruistic and public prosocial behavior endorsement. Students at a midwestern university (N=398; 89.2% Caucasian; Mage=20.76; 26.6% male) provided self-report measures of prosocial tendencies and behaviors and buccal cells for genotyping OXTR polymorphisms. Results indicated that OXTR single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) rs2268498 genotype significantly predicted empathic concern, whereas gender moderated the association between several other OXTRSNPs and prosocial tendencies. Increased prosocial tendencies predicted increased altruistic prosocial behavior endorsement and decreased public prosocial behavior endorsement. Our findings suggest an association between genetic variation in OXTR and endorsement of prosocial behavior indirectly through prosocial tendencies, and that the pathway is dependent on the type of prosocial behavior and gender.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)204-213
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Personality
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1 2016


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology

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