Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC Berkeley

UC Berkeley Previously Published Works bannerUC Berkeley

Dopamine-System Genes and Cultural Acquisition: The Norm Sensitivity Hypothesis.


Previous research in cultural psychology shows that cultures vary in the social orientation of independence and interdependence. To date, however, little is known about how people may acquire such global patterns of cultural behavior or cultural norms. Nor is it clear what genetic mechanisms may underlie the acquisition of cultural norms. Here, we draw on recent evidence for certain genetic variability in the susceptibility to environmental influences and propose a norm sensitivity hypothesis, which holds that people acquire culture, and rules of cultural behaviors, through reinforcement-mediated social learning processes. One corollary of the hypothesis is that the degree of cultural acquisition should be influenced by polymorphic variants of genes involved in dopaminergic neural pathways, which have been widely implicated in reinforcement learning. We reviewed initial evidence for this prediction and discussed challenges and directions for future research.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View