Your Cheatin’ DRD4 Gene Mutation

December 3, 2010

Your cheatin’ heart, 
Will pine some day,
And crave the love,
You threw away,
The time will come,
When you’ll be blue,
Your cheatin’ heart, will tell on you…

When tears come down,
Like falling rain,
You’ll toss around,
And call my name,
You’ll walk the floor,
The way I do,
Your cheatin’ heart, will tell on you…

Hank Williams

Scientists confirm the presence of a One-Night Stand gene!

No, you haven’t been redirected to the Onion, this is legit. The Body Odd blog at MSNBC highlights a just-released study confirming that some men and women have a mutation on the human dopamine D4 receptor gene (DRD4), making them prone to promiscuous behavior. DRD4 is a longer version of the dopamine receptor, the “thrill-seeking gene.” Dopamine is the body’s natural high, and certain individuals are more susceptible to chasing it. Previous studies have shown a link between DRD4 and the following:

  • Gambling
  • Alcoholism
  • Drug use
  • Overeating
  • Political liberalism
  • Passion for horror films
  • ADHD
  • Extreme extraversion
  • Impulsiveness

Hey, I know a couple of those sound weird, but I’m just the messenger. Anyway, researchers have long suspected that DRD4 would strongly link to promiscuity, and the first study of its kind has just been published, suggesting it is so.

The DRD4 research was done at SUNY-Binghamton, surveying 181 college students about their past sexual behavior, sexual expectations and sexual preferences. They also took a DNA swab from the inner cheek. 23% of the females and 26% of the males had the varied genotype. The study looked at three aspects of sexual behavior:

1. History of sexual intercourse

  • 77% of the respondents had had sexual intercourse, but there was no statistically significant difference between the genotypes.
  • The number of past sexual partners was also not materially different between the two groups.

2. History of infidelity

  • 22% of the people with the standard gene reported having been unfaithful to a committed partner in the past.
  • 50% of the genetic mutants had been.
  • Of those who had cheated, those with DRD4 had 50% more sexual partners with whom they had been unfaithful, i.e. they cheated more often.

3. History of promiscuity (One-Night Stands)

  • 24% with the standard gene had engaged in at least one ONS.
  • 50% of the mutated gene owners had.

Previous studies have focused on men, but this study found no differences between males and females. The researchers were careful to point out that “behavioral outcomes are probabilistic, not deterministic.” Apparently, quite a few people with the long version reported that they had never cheated. Why do some people resist these urges, while others don’t? It’s not fully understood, but the authors of the study did say:

“DRD4 VNTR genotype varies considerably within and among populations and has been subject to relatively recent, local selective pressures…in environments where “cad” behavior is adaptive, selective pressure for DRD4 would be positive; but in environments where “dad” behavior is adaptive, selective pressure for DRD4 would be negative.”

Needless to say, the sociosexual environment in the U.S. is highly adapted to cad behavior. An interesting follow up might be to examine how this adaptation affects women. Are female “cads” free to act out in a culture that rewards their male counterparts?

As always, there are a couple of caveats to the results:

1. It may be that those with a strong tendency to pursue risky behaviors are more likely to be forthright about their sexual behavior.

2. The study did not look at variations in mating attractiveness between the two groups. It may be that more attractive people have more opportunity to be promiscuous. Or that attractiveness is correlated to the long version of the gene.

This research may someday lead to DNA testing as part of the mating process. Perhaps there will be an online dating site just for DRD4s. Women may want to know about length (haha) before getting into bed with a guy. I can already hear the excuses – “I was born with the DRD4 mutation! It’s not my fault!”

In the meantime, you’ve already got a pretty solid list of red flags to watch out for. Steer clear of the thrill seekers. If he jumps out of planes or deals drugs, chances are he will cheat on you. If she goes home with you from a bar or wants to be the most beautiful girl at the ball, she’s not going to be happily monogamous.

Once validated, this research destroys forever the fantasy that you can change someone. That you can make a bad boy good, or a party girl want to be a homebody. People don’t change, not really. It appears that we’re hardwired in ways we’ve never even imagined.