Looking for reward in all the wrong places: dopamine receptor gene polymorphisms indirectly affect aggression through sensation-seeking

David S. Chester, C. Nathan DeWall, Karen J. Derefinko, Steven Estus, Donald R. Lynam, Jessica R. Peters, Yang Jiang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations

Abstract

Individuals with genotypes that code for reduced dopaminergic brain activity often exhibit a predisposition toward aggression. However, it remains largely unknown how dopaminergic genotypes may increase aggression. Lower-functioning dopamine systems motivate individuals to seek reward from external sources such as illicit drugs and other risky experiences. Based on emerging evidence that aggression is a rewarding experience, we predicted that the effect of lower-functioning dopaminergic functioning on aggression would be mediated by tendencies to seek the environment for rewards. Caucasian female and male undergraduates (N = 277) were genotyped for five polymorphisms of the dopamine D2 receptor (DRD2) gene; they reported their previous history of aggression and their dispositional reward-seeking. Lower-functioning DRD2 profiles were associated with greater sensation-seeking, which then predicted greater aggression. Our findings suggest that lower-functioning dopaminergic activity puts individuals at risk for violence because it motivates them to experience aggression’s hedonically rewarding qualities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)487-494
Number of pages8
JournalSocial Neuroscience
Volume11
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Taylor & Francis.

Keywords

  • DRD2
  • Dopamine
  • aggression
  • reward
  • sensation-seeking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Development
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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