Gene–culture interaction: The role of OXTR on socio-emotional processes in different dultures

Hee­jung Kim, PhD, Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor, Depart­ment of Psy­cho­log­i­cal & Brain Sci­ences, Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Santa Bar­bara   Web­site  |  Pub­li­ca­tions   | Abstract & Bio

Abstract: Research has iden­ti­fied a genetic basis for a wide range of social and emo­tional behav­iors. Yet, there is a grow­ing body of research show­ing the impact of the envi­ron­ment in mod­er­at­ing gene expres­sion. In our research, we found that cul­ture, as a form of envi­ron­ment that pro­vides social con­text in which behav­iors take place, plays a sig­nif­i­cant role in shap­ing how genes are expressed in behav­iors and psy­cho­log­i­cal ten­den­cies. I will present stud­ies in which we exam­ined the gene-by-culture inter­ac­tion in shap­ing emo­tion behav­iors that are known to vary across cul­tures, such as emo­tional atten­tion, emo­tion reg­u­la­tion and emo­tional sup­port seek­ing. The present stud­ies exam­ined how cul­ture mod­er­ates the link between oxy­tocin recep­tor poly­mor­phism (OXTR) to pro­duce cul­tur­ally diver­gent psy­cho­log­i­cal out­comes. These results sup­port the idea that genes influ­ence psy­cho­log­i­cal pre­dis­po­si­tions, and that the behav­ioral man­i­fes­ta­tions of these pre­dis­po­si­tions are mod­er­ated by culture.

Bio: Hee­jung Kim is inter­ested in the cul­tural influ­ences on psy­cho­log­i­cal processes. In par­tic­u­lar, her research exam­ines (1) cul­tural dif­fer­ences in the per­cep­tion and the effect of self-expression, (2) cul­tural dif­fer­ences in the use of social sup­port, and (3) the roles of cul­tural and genetic fac­tors in shap­ing psy­cho­log­i­cal processes. In so doing, she addresses the impli­ca­tions of these cul­tur­ally spe­cific cog­ni­tive, affec­tive and behav­ioral ten­den­cies for health and edu­ca­tional outcomes.

Dr. Kim received her B.A. in Psy­chol­ogy from the Uni­ver­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, and her M.A. and Ph.D. in Social Psy­chol­ogy from Stan­ford Uni­ver­sity in 2001. She is cur­rently an asso­ciate pro­fes­sor at the Depart­ment of Psy­cho­log­i­cal & Brain sci­ences, UCSB. Her research inter­ests are in cul­tural psy­chol­ogy, look­ing at how cul­ture influ­ences a range of psy­cho­log­i­cal processes. Her research has been funded by mul­ti­ple grants from the National Sci­ence Foun­da­tion as well as a grant from Social Sci­ence Research Coun­cil. She was one of the most cited Assis­tant Pro­fes­sors in Social Psy­chol­ogy (Dia­logue, Fall, 2007). She was also named one of the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Minds in sci­ence by Seed Mag­a­zine (August, 2008).

Link to UCSB Cul­tural Psy­chol­ogy Lab.