Dopamine D4 receptor gene associated with fairness preference in ultimatum game

Songfa Zhong, Salomon Israel, Idan Shalev, Hong Xue, Richard P. Ebstein, Soo Hong Chew

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In experimental economics, the preference for reciprocal fairness has been observed in the controlled and incentivized laboratory setting of the ultimatum game, in which two individuals decide on how to divide a sum of money, with one proposing the share while the second deciding whether to accept. Should the proposal be accepted, the amount is divided accordingly. Otherwise, both would receive no money. A recent twin study has shown that fairness preference inferred from responder behavior is heritable, yet its neurogenetic basis remains unknown. The D4 receptor (DRD4) exon3 is a wellcharacterized functional polymorphism, which is known to be associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and personality traits including novelty seeking and self-report altruism. Applying a neurogenetic approach, we find that DRD4 is significantly associated with fairness preference. Additionally, the interaction among this gene, season of birth, and gender is highly significant. This is the first result to link preference for reciprocal fairness to a specific gene and suggests that gene × environment interactions contribute to economic decision making.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere13765
JournalPloS one
Issue number11
StatePublished - 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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