A single-nucleotide polymorphism on the oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR), rs53576, involving a guanine (G) to adenine (A) substitution has been associated with altered prosocial features. Specifically, individuals with the GG genotype (i.e. the absence of the polymorphism) display beneficial traits including enhanced trust, empathy and self-esteem. However, because G carriers might also be more socially sensitive, this may render them more vulnerable to the adverse effects of a negative social stressor. The current investigation, conducted among 128 white female undergraduate students, demonstrated that relative to individuals with AA genotype, G carriers were more emotionally sensitive (lower self-esteem) in response to social ostracism promoted through an on-line ball tossing game (Cyberball). Furthermore, GG individuals also exhibited altered blood pressure and cortisol levels following rejection, effects not apparent among A carriers. The data support the view that the presence of the G allele not only promotes prosocial behaviors but also favors sensitivity to a negative social stressor.

Additional Metadata
Keywords cortisol, Ostracism, Oxytocin, SNP, Social sensitivity
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1093/scan/nsu166
Journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience
Citation
McQuaid, R.J. (Robyn J.), McInnis, O.A. (Opal A.), Matheson, K, & Anisman, H. (2014). Distress of ostracism: Oxytocin receptor gene polymorphism confers sensitivity to social exclusion. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 10(8), 1153–1159. doi:10.1093/scan/nsu166