Wednesday, 06 May, 2009 Science

Scientists Discover Gene that Makes Person Gamble


Scientists at the University College London claim they managed to discover a gene that makes a person more likely to be persuaded to gamble. They found a genetic connection between whether a person is cautious with their money or is keen to invest in gambling.

Researchers noticed that varieties of a gene that plays a role in transportation of serotonin, a drug that controls mood in human brain, are also responsible for decision making, mainly when a person is being tempted with a gamble. Their study found that people with "short" versions of the gene were more likely to take a risk than people who have a "longer" variety.

"We know that people from across a variety of cultures are susceptible to biases when making decisions, and that even with training these biases are hard to overcome. This implies that hard-wired genetic influences might play an important role in determining how susceptible different individuals are to the framing effect," mentioned Dr Jonathan Roiser from the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience.

Researchers asked 30 study participants to decide whether or not to gamble if they have a certain sum of money. For instance, if the participants were given 50 pounds and they had to choose between two variants: to keep 20 pounds for sure or to gamble, having a 40 percent chance of keeping their 50 pounds and a 60 percent chance of losing all of their money.

It was discovered that participants with two copies of the short variant were much more likely to take the risk and gamble. Dr Roiser still has to answer the question whether the gene can affect the decision-making of a person in real-life.

He gives example of traders in banks that need to carry out quick and precise estimations of the risk and reliable decisions. "So you might hypothesize that traders with the long genetic variant would make more consistent decisions, though this needs to be tested in future research," he said.

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