Do You Have the “Warrior Gene”?

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Business – It’s in your genes. Are you really business savvy because of your genes? Do your genes control your business choices? According to scientists at the California Institute of Technology the answer might be yes: inheriting the warrior gene may indeed make you better at making risky financial decisions.

Named for its link to aggressive behaviour, the term ‘warrior gene’ applies to several different genetic versions of the MAOA gene. All warrior versions produce lower levels of monoamine oxidase A. This is an enzyme that breaks down neurotransmitters which control feelings of stress and reward. When MAOA levels are low, the neurotransmitters are not broken down as effectively, which usually results in behavioural changes. The list of negative behaviours associated with the warrior gene includes antisocial behaviour, alcoholism, panic disorders and pathological gambling. However, new evidence also reveals that warrior gene carriers have an advantage when challenged with making risky decisions.

Scientists were interested in how different genetic versions of three genes, MAOA, 5-HTT (a serotonin transporter) and DRD4 (dopamine 4 receptor), affected risk-taking behaviour. Their study involved 83 men between the ages of 19-27 from different ethnic backgrounds. Participants performed a financial decision-making exercise choosing between a sure option (100% chance of neither winning or losing their input value) and a risky option (50:50 chance of winning $7 or losing $4). People with the ‘warrior’ forms of the MAOA gene (MAOA-L) were more likely to accept the risky option, compared to their MAOA-H counterparts.

This agreed with previous findings that MAOA-L carriers are more likely to exhibit risky behaviour. However, what is novel is that warrior carriers took risks because they believed that they would benefit from these decisions and according to the evidence, they did. The warrior gene allowed these individuals to better judge when a risk is in their favour, which could include anything from a risky business decision to a winning hand in cards. If you have the warrior gene, you are more likely to profit from your decision.

It is human nature to try to describe people based on their age, identity or even their genes. Warrior gene carriers are often labelled as being angry and aggressive, but it looks like the warrior version might also provide the “no guts, no glory” attitude that is essential to excelling as an entrepreneur, especially if it involves high-risk decision-making.

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