A single gene mutation that makes us more prone to repeat mistakes

http://www.nature.com/news/2007/071206/full/news.2007.358.html

Most people tend to learn from their mistakes and avoid making the same blunder twice. Now research reveals a genetic mutation that helps to determine the extent to which certain people are doomed to repeat history.

Drug addicts, alcoholics and compulsive gamblers are known to be more likely than other people to have this genetic mutation, which leaves them with fewer receptors of a certain type in the brain. These receptors — called D2 receptors — are activated when levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine drop.

Dopamine is responsible for signalling fun and pleasure in the brain. But dopamine also helps us learn. When we make a pleasurable decision, dopamine is a chemical treat, urging the brain to repeat the choice. Being deprived of such a treat should theoretically activate D2 receptors and encourage people not to make that same decision again.

So it had been theorized that people with fewer D2 receptors might be less capable of learning from negative reinforcement.

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2 thoughts on “A single gene mutation that makes us more prone to repeat mistakes

  1. We need to understand first why our decisions are not as good as we would like, and the reasons might be different for each of us.

    Sometimes we simply do not know enough, in which case we need to learn more.

    Sometimes it is not because we do not know enough, but we are not systematic enough in making use of the information we have, so we need better planning in decision making.

    For most people, the influence of decision traps might have the biggest effect, e.g. over-confidence, shooting from the hip, etc. The solution is to become more aware of these biases. I recommend this book:

    http://www.amazon.com/Decision-Traps-Barriers-Decision-Making-Overcome/dp/0671726099

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