Daniel Lee

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Emory U.

Grant number

Gr. 9827

Approve Date

April 30, 2019

Project Title

Lee, Daniel (Emory U.) "Genetic and Neural Basis of Cultural Norm Acquisition and Moral Learning"

The mutually constitutive relationship between the self and its socio-cultural environment has been at the heart of the anthropological inquiry. Our understanding of such entanglement, however, is limited by a relative dearth of mechanistic models that explain how culture ‘gets under the skin’ and shapes people’s everyday behaviors and thoughts. That is, what are the specific biological and cognitive underpinnings that enable our body to be socially-informed? The current proposal aims to address this question through the lens of ‘moral learning,’ the process through which people embody a set of culture-typical moral values based on normative social feedback. Building upon the theories and methods in genetics, biological anthropology, and social neuroscience, I hypothesize that a set of genetic variants called ‘sensitivity genes’ (i.e., Oxytocin receptor gene; OXTR) will critically influence neural mechanisms implicated in social cognition and reinforcement learning. Throughout a series of experiments wherein participants’ genetic information will be analyzed in conjunction with the neural and behavioral data, I will specifically explore the facilitative impacts of the sensitivity genes on peoples’ ability 1) to detect normative social cues, 2) to determine authenticity of social cues, and 3) to modify their actual moral behaviors based on normative social feedback.