Triarchic Psychopathy Dimensions in Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes): Investigating Associations with Genetic Variation in the Vasopressin Receptor 1A Gene
Vasopressin is a neuropeptide known to be associated with the development and evolution of complex socio-emotional behaviors including those relevant to psychopathic personality. In both humans and chimpanzees, recent research suggests a strong genetic contribution to individual variation in psychopathic traits. To date, however, little is known concerning specific genes that might explain the observed heritability of psychopathy. In a relatively large sample of captive chimpanzees (N = 164), the current study thus sought to investigate gene-environment associations between triarchic psychopathy dimensions (i.e., disinhibition, meanness, and boldness) and 1) early social rearing experiences and 2) polymorphisms in the promoter region of the V1A receptor gene (AVPR1A). Among chimpanzees raised by their biological conspecific mothers, AVPR1A was found to uniquely explain variability in disinhibition and in sex-specific ways for boldness and a total psychopathy score; however, in contrast, no significant associations were found between AVPR1A and any of the triarchic psychopathy dimensions in chimpanzees raised the first three years of life in a human nursery. Thus, when considered in its entirety, results suggest an important contributory influence of V1A receptor genotype variation in the explanation of the development of psychopathy under some but not all early rearing conditions. Results of the current study provide additional support for the assertion that psychopathic tendencies are rooted in basic, evolutionarily-meaningful dispositions, and provide support for a primate-translational operationalization of key neurobehavioral constructs relevant both to psychopathy and to broader forms of psychopathology.