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Fast and Slow Thinking Study

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DIYgenomics Fast and Slow Thinking Study

DIYgenomics wiki homepage


Title: Thinking Fast and Slow Study


Summary: This study seeks to investigate a potential link between genetic predisposition for loss aversion and optimism bias and the phenotypic display of such behaviors. It is an implementation of the ideas proposed in the book by Nobel-prize winner Daniel Kahneman, Thinking Fast and Slow (Kahneman 2011). This study is overseen by the Rikengenesis IRB (Institutional Review Board).


Hypothesis: Individuals with polymorphisms in genes related to neural processes may be more susceptible to two phenomena that shape human thinking, loss aversion and optimism bias.


Study conduct: The study is conducted in two parts that examine loss aversion and optimism bias. Loss aversion is a phenomenon where individuals vastly prefer loss avoidance to gains. Optimism bias is a phenomenon where individuals display overconfidence in thinking and behavior.



Genetic Analysis through Personal Genome Files

The neural processes involved are reward processing, reward anticipation, action-taking, risk-taking and risk-avoidance, impulse control, addiction, and propensity for gambling. The Genes linked to these neural processes are 5-HTTLPR, COMT Val(158)Met, T102C, DRD2/ANKK1, PDYN. Specifically, neurotransmitter operations are critical in decision-making, reward processing, and loss aversion, particularly those regulated by serotonin SNP 5-HTTLPR rs25531 (He 2012) and dopamine SNP COMT Val(158)Met rs4680 (He 2012, Farrell 2012, Schmack 2008). Serotonin receptor polymorphism T102C rs6313 is also implicated, in the area of impulse control (Wilson 2012). Propensity for risk-taking SNPs may be evaluated in the loss aversion context: DRD2/ANKK1 rs1800497 (Smillie 2011) and DRD2 rs4274224, rs4581480, rs12364283, rs2283265, and rs1076560 (Peciña 2012). Regarding gambling, the dopamine SNP COMT Val(158)Met rs4680 may be evaluated (He 2012), and for addiction, PDYN rs1022563, rs910080, and rs1997794 (Clarke 2012).


Phenotypic Analysis through Questionnaire Instruments

  • Loss Aversion Task: prospect theory
  • Iowa Gambling Task: real-life decision-making



Genetic Analysis through Personal Genome Files

This study arm reviews the previously-mentioned reward processing SNPs and the oxytocin receptor polymorphism (OXTR rs53576 (Saphire-Bernstein 2011, Kogan 2011, Rodrigues 2009)) for positive mindset.


Phenotypic Analysis through Questionnaire Instruments

  • Schowmaker’s Confident Decision Making test
  • Blavatskyy’s Experimental Test of Overconfidence
  • Critch’s Credence Game


Potential citizen ethicist review: (see Ethical Review Q&A)

Alexander Gerlyand, Biotechnology professional

Amanda Kahn-Kirby, Biotechnology professional



Clarke, T.K., Ambrose-Lanci, L., Ferraro, T.N., Berrettini, W.H., Kampman, K.M., et al. 2012. Genetic association analyses of PDYN polymorphisms with heroin and cocaine addiction. Genes Brain Behav 11(4):415-23.

Farrell, S.M., Tunbridge, E.M., Braeutigam, S., Harrison, P.J. 2012. COMT Val(158)Met genotype determines the direction of cognitive effects produced by catechol-O-methyltransferase inhibition. Biol Psychiatry 71(6):538-44.

He, Q., Xue, G., Chen, C., Lu, Z.L., Chen, C., et al. 2012. COMT Val(158)Met polymorphism interacts with stressful life events and parental warmth to influence decision making. Sci Rep 2:677.

Kahneman, D. 2011. Thinking, Fast and Slow. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.

Kogan, A., Saslow, L.R., Impett, E.A., Oveis, C., Keltner, D., et al. 2011. Thin-slicing study of the oxytocin receptor (OXTR) gene and the evaluation and expression of the prosocial disposition. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 108(48):19189-92.

Peciña, M., Mickey, B.J., Love, T., Wang, H., Langenecker, S.A., et al. 2012. DRD2 polymorphisms modulate reward and emotion processing, dopamine neurotransmission and openness to experience. Cortex.

Rodrigues, S.M., Saslow, L.R., Garcia, N., John, O.P., Keltner, D. 2009. Oxytocin receptor genetic variation relates to empathy and stress reactivity in humans. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 106(50):21437-41.

Saphire-Bernstein, S., Way, B.M., Kim, H.S., Sherman, D.K., Taylor, S.E. 2011. Oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) is related to psychological resources. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 108(37):15118-22.

Schmack, K., Schlagenhauf, F., Sterzer, P., Wrase, J., Beck, A., et al. 2008. Catechol-O-methyltransferase val158met genotype influences neural processing of reward anticipation. Neuroimage 42(4):1631-8.

Smillie, L.D., Cooper, A.J., Pickering, A.D. 2011. Individual differences in reward-prediction-error: extraversion and feedback-related negativity. Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci  6(5):646-52.

Wilson, D, da Silva Lobo, D.S., Tavares, H., Gentil, V., Vallada, H. 2012. Family-Based Association Analysis of Serotonin Genes in Pathological Gambling Disorder: Evidence of Vulnerability Risk in the 5HT-2A Receptor Gene. J Mol Neurosci.




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