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The Oxytocin Receptor Gene (OXTR) and Gazing Behavior during Social Interaction: An Observational Study in Young Adults

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DOI: 10.4236/ojd.2014.34017    2,767 Downloads   3,359 Views   Citations

ABSTRACT

Background: In the present study, the relation between a polymorphic marker within the OXTR gene (rs53576) and gazing behavior during two separate social interaction tasks was examined. Gazing behavior was considered to be an integral part of belonging regulation processes. Methods: We conducted an observational interaction study (N = 116; 58 dyads) in a naturalistic setting. Participants were seated face to face with hidden cameras positioned behind them. Each couple was instructed to have two short conversations about daily topics (nightlife in the city and movies), separated by a distraction task. We studied the role of the OXTR gene in relation to gaze duration (total duration and mean duration per event) at the interaction partner, both for the total interaction and for the first and second halves of the interaction, separately. Results: Analyses showed a significant relationship between the OXTR genetic variant and mean gaze duration at the interaction partner. Individuals carrying an A-allele showed increased gaze duration. This genetic association was particularly present during the first half of the conversation. In the second interaction task, we confirmed the findings that A-allele carriers showed longer mean gaze duration. No associations were found for total gaze duration. Conclusions: The OXTR A-allele was associated with longer mean gaze duration at an unknown interaction partner, especially during the first halves of the interaction times. This might illustrate that A-carriers, compared to GG-homozygous individuals, need slightly more time to read the micro socio-emotional facial cues of a new interaction partner or need more time for social reconciliation processes. This could be indicative of a genetic liability for being less vulnerable to pick up new micro social cues.

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The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

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Verhagen, M. , Engels, R. and Roekel, E. (2014) The Oxytocin Receptor Gene (OXTR) and Gazing Behavior during Social Interaction: An Observational Study in Young Adults. Open Journal of Depression, 3, 136-146. doi: 10.4236/ojd.2014.34017.

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