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Catechol-O-Methyltransferase Gene Val158Met Polymorphism Moderates the Effect of Social Exclusion and Inclusion on Aggression in Men: Findings From a Mixed Experimental Design

Accumulating research has identified the interactive effects of catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) gene Val158Met polymorphism and environmental factors on aggression. However, available evidence was mainly based upon correlational design, which yields mixed findings concerning who (Val vs. Met carriers) are more affected by environmental conditions and has been challenged for the low power of analyses on gene–environment interaction. Drawing on a mixed design, we scrutinized how COMT Val158Met polymorphism (between-group variable) impacts on aggression, assessed by hostility, aggressive motivation, and aggressive behavior, under different social conditions (exclusion vs. inclusion, within-group variable) in a sample of 70 Chinese male undergraduate students. We found that both Val/Val homozygote and Met alleles carriers showed differences in the feelings of hostility and aggressive motivation under conditions of exclusion versus inclusion, but these differences were more pronounced for Met allele carriers. These findings implied that COMT Val158Met polymorphism did not respond to environmental stimuli in an all-or-none way and shed light on the importance of examining the gene–environment interaction using a mixed design.

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