Genetics of Greed!

The Greedy Brain

According to Erich Seligmann Fromm ( a German- born American social pychologist) Greed , also known as avarice, is “a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort to satisfy the need without ever reaching satifaction”.

Erich Seligmann Fromm
(March 23, 1900 – March 18, 1980)

In other words, Greed signifies the amelioration of the balance or coordination between “need” and “want”. It is the insatiable desire to possess something like money, power, belongings, status, food etc.

If we analyse events of theft, robbery, violence, treachery, manipulation etc. that happens around us, greed is the most important underlying cause for all such events. Apart from many psychological and / or psycho-social reasons, recently scientists have found that there is a genetic basis too.

The Ruthless gene or Daring gene (as reported by Nature News) is the “Gene Of Greed!” Biologically, this gene produces one of the receptors for the hormone Vasopressin. Scientifically, ruthless gene protein product is known as arginine vasopressin receptor 1A (AVPR1A).

Look this is the Human GREED Protein!

AVPR1A receptors are present all throughout the brain as well as in different other organs like liver, kidney, blood vessels, capillaries etc. In humans, AVPR1A gene is located in Chromosome 12. There are atleast 3 types or versions of this gene that have been identified in human population (called as polymorphism) . These gene variants differ in their lengths. The degree of greediness depends on the presence of one (or all) of these variants. For example, researchers have shown that extremely selfish and greedy people have a shorter version of the ruthless gene (AVPR1a).

Interestingly, these genetic studies and many similar ones gave birth to a naive field called Genoeconomics which relates economics and molecular genetics to understand financial and economic behavior in a particular society.

So do we keep blaming our genes then for being greedy or selfish? Or is it not time to analyse and take a tour of our own mind ? Can we not suppress the ruthless gene expression and make this world a more beautiful place to live in!

Contributed by: Dr. Gargi Roy Goswami


  1. Hi Genomeden,
    If one was to look forAVPR1a variation in 23andme, do you know what type of nation is used for finding it? e..g below talks about Gifted musicians and not sure of primer notation is needed and how does one look at the length of the AVPR1 ? thanks

    Gene Region Forward primer Reverse primer TA (°C)
    AVPR1a AVR 12q14-15, intron 5′-FAM-ATC CCA TGT CCG TCT GGA C-3′ 5′-AGT GTT CCT CCA AGG TGC G-3′ 60
    AVPR1a RS1 12q14-15, promoter 5′-HEX-AGG GAC TGG TTC TAC AAT CTG C-3′ 5′-ACC TCT CAA GTT ATG TTG GTG G-3′ 60
    AVPR1a RS3 12q14-15, promoter 5′-FAM-CCT GTA GAG ATG TAA GTG CT-3′ 5′-TCT GGA AGA GAC TTA GAT GG-3′ 60


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