Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version



Social Neuroscience 8:5 (2013), pp. 400–406.

doi: 10.1080/17470919.2013.807874


Copyright © 2013 Taylor & Francis. Used by permission.


There is growing evidence that the serotonin system influences prosocial behavior. We examined whether anxiety mediated the association between variation in the serotonin transporter gene regulatory region (5-HTTLPR) and prosocial behavior. We collected self-reported tendencies to avoid certain situations and history of helping others using standard instruments and buccal cells for standard 5-HTTLPR genotyping from 398 undergraduate students. Triallelic 5-HTTLPR genotype was significantly associated with prosocial behavior and the effect was partially mediated by social anxiety, such that those carrying the S′ allele reported higher levels of social avoidance and lower rates of helping others. These results are consistent with accounts of the role of serotonin on anxiety and prosocial behavior and suggest that targeted efforts to reduce social anxiety in S′ allele carriers may enhance prosocial behavior.