To cheat or not to cheat: Tryptophan hydroxylase 2 SNP variants contribute to dishonest behavior

Qiang Shen, Meijun Teo, Eyal Winter, Einav Hart, Soo H. Chew, Richard P. Ebstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although, lying (bear false witness) is explicitly prohibited in the Decalogue and a focus of interest in philosophy and theology, more recently the behavioral and neural mechanisms of deception are gaining increasing attention from diverse fields especially economics, psychology, and neuroscience. Despite the considerable role of heredity in explaining individual differences in deceptive behavior, few studies have investigated which specific genes contribute to the heterogeneity of lying behavior across individuals. Also, little is known concerning which specific neurotransmitter pathways underlie deception. Toward addressing these two key questions, we implemented a neurogenetic strategy and modeled deception by an incentivized die-under-cup task in a laboratory setting. The results of this exploratory study provide provisional evidence that SNP variants across the tryptophan hydroxylase 2 (TPH2) gene, that encodes the rate-limiting enzyme in the biosynthesis of brain serotonin, contribute to individual differences in deceptive behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Article number82
JournalFrontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience
Issue numberMAY
StatePublished - 3 May 2016


  • Lying
  • Neurogenetics
  • Serotonin
  • Single-nucleotide polymorphism
  • TPH2

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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