Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


Psychology (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Michael E. McCullough

Second Committee Member

Charles S. Carver

Third Committee Member

Michael L. Cuccaro

Fourth Committee Member

Philip M. McCabe

Fifth Committee Member

William A. Searcy


Recent research has shown that variation in the gene encoding for the oxytocin receptor (OXTR) contributes to individual differences in social-cognitive and emotional functioning in both clinical and non-clinical populations. OXTR has been associated with prosocial behavior, positive and negative emotionality, empathy, maternal sensitivity, and stress reactivity. To date, no study has investigated OXTR in the context of behavioral and emotional reactions to betrayals in trust. The present study examined how variation in 10 SNPs on OXTR may contribute to individual differences in behavior, emotional reactions, and perceptions following a betrayal in trust in an iterated prisoner’s dilemma game. Following correction for multiple testing, one SNP (rs237887) and two haplotypes (A-rs237887, C-rs2268490; G-rs237887, C-rs2268490) were significantly associated with positive emotional reactions to betrayal. In addition, one haplotype (C-rs9840864, T-rs2268490) was significantly associated with negative emotional reactions to betrayal. The present findings suggest that variation on OXTR may contribute to individual differences in emotional reactions to betrayals in trust.


OXTR; Emotional reactions; Betrayal; Cooperation; Prisoner’s dilemma