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We review the role of R symmetries in models of supersymmetric unification in four and more dimensions, and in string theory. We show that, if one demands anomaly freedom and fermion masses, only R symmetries can forbid the supersymmetric Higgs mass term μ. We then review the proof that R symmetries are not available in conventional grand unified theories (GUTs) and argue that this prevents natural solutions to the doublet-triplet splitting problem in four dimensions. On the other hand, higher-dimensional GUTs do not suffer from this problem. We briefly comment on an explicit string-derived model in which the μ and dimension-5 proton decay problems are solved simultaneously by an order four discrete R symmetry. We also comment on the higher-dimensional origin of this symmetry. © 2012 World Scientific Publishing Company.

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