April 24, 2024

Fairness is in your genes, not your morals

More news from the everything-is-genetic camp. According to an article in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Bjorn Wallace, of the Stockholm School of Economics, a sense of fairness is not based upon culture, but upon your genes.

He recruited dozens of identical twins and fraternal twins for an experiment called the ultimatum game. In this, one player divides $15 and offeres a share to the other player. If the responder rejects his share, both players get nothing. This is used as a gauge of fairness. Almost always, people reject a share lower than 20%, apparently to punish the greed of the person making the offer. Dr Wallace found that there was no correlation among fraternal twins but a 42% likelihood that identical twins would make the same choices.

The researchers’ findings suggest that genetic influences account for as much as 40% of the variation in how people respond to unfair offers. “This raises the intriguing possibility that many of our preferences and personal economic choices are subject to substantial genetic influence,” says Dr Wallace.