Genes Related to the Vengefulness Trait

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How do you usually react to others' offensive behavior? You may sometimes be vengeful, and other times try to avoid a transgressor. People react to a transgression differently. Even more, certain groups of people feel better and satisfied after a vengeful act. 

However, thoughts of revenge are not abnormal. Acts of revenge are reported across the globe and vengefulness is an identifiable personality trait that has already been investigated in various cultures.

Here, we define vengeance and explain just how it’s possible to be genetically predisposed to this personality trait. 

What is Vengefulness? And How is It Related to Your Heritage?

To define vengeful, we’ll look to Merriam-Webster, which explains the adjective as  “Seeking to avenge.” Another definition is “seeking to harm someone in return for a perceived injury.” 

Your Genes and Vengefulness 

Previous quantitative genetic studies have revealed that individual differences in reactive aggression, the reaction to unfair offers such as punishing an opponent for an unfair offer, and aggressive personality are highly heritable. Therefore, variance in trait vengefulness might be explained partly by genetic background. 

In addition, several studies have investigated the neurobiological and genetic basis of taking revenge in laboratory settings. In these studies, the dopaminergic reward system appears to be particularly important since punishing others for unfair behavior (which can be seen as a kind of revenge taking) was associated with activation in some brain areas known to be associated with reward processing. It is widely known that dopaminergic pathways modulate the brain reward system.

One of the candidate genes related to trait vengefulness is the Catechol-O-Methyltransferase (COMT) involved in dopamine catabolization. In addition, those who carried at least one copy of an A allele of the Val158Met polymorphism (rs4680) in COMT showed the tendency to have higher reward responsiveness compared to G homozygotes in a previous punishment trial. 

Researchers investigated the molecular genetics of individual differences in avoidance and vengeful reactions to transgressions in this context. This study focused on rs4680 in 730 Chinese and 585 German participants. It used two different self-reported measures, Chinese and German versions of the TRIM-12 and the Vengeance Scale questionnaires, which were implemented to assess individual variation in reactions to a transgression. 

Results showed that participants, especially males, with at least one copy of the Met (A) allele were associated with higher vengefulness in the Chinese sample. However, this association was not seen in the German sample. The Met allele was also related to the tendency to avoid a transgressor in the Chinese male and female (n = 196), with an especially pronounced effect in the female subgroup. Again, this same effect was found in the German sample, especially in females (n = 399).

At first, two main reactions to a transgressor, avoidance and revenge seem like opposite behaviors. However, they are associated on a psychological level. As shown in the study above, there was a substantial correlation between the two phenotypes. 

The theory might explain that the tendency to avoid a transgressor could reflect the tendency toward seeking to punish transgressors by ending a relationship (e.gfriendship) and thus incorporates a component of vengefulness (e.g., a typical item of Avoidance Motivation is “I cut off the relationship with him/her”). 

In this case, the association between the Met allele of the COMT Val158Met polymorphism and higher scores in Avoidance Motivation might be explained by a higher experience of reward during the transgressor's punishment.

In terms of the relationship between the Met allele of the COMT Val158Met polymorphism and vengefulness, which could only be observed in the Chinese (male) sample, it would be of great interest to investigate possible confounding variables contributing to this apparent cultural (and gender) specificity.

How Do You Know if You Might Be Vengeful?

If you’re concerned about being vengeful for yourself or a loved one, you can now determine if you are by taking a genetics test.

Genetics tests are available through many companies, like AncestryDNA, 23andMe, and MyHeritage. Suppose you’ve already taken this type of test. In that case, you’ll need to export your raw DNA file and then upload it to a different website that offers personality traits, genetics testing, and analysis. 

If you haven’t had a genetics test, you’ll need one before learning all about your personality traits. 

Are you interested in learning more about your genetic tendency to react to a transgressor with a vengeance? You can log in to your Genomelink dashboard to see this new genetic trait. 

Join now & unlock 300+ unique Traits like this.

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