May 10th, 2016
There are many things that make a person nicer, and genes might be one of them, according to new research at the University of California and the University at Buffalo. The study, based on surveys and DNA samples from 711 people, measured how genetic receptors for two hormones, oxytocin and vasopressin, affect human behaviour.
All participants were asked about civic duty, their perception of the world and charitable activities. Then the results were correlated with those from the DNA analysis. Scientists found that these genetic receptors could explain why some people are nicer, thought they refuse to talk about a ‘niceness gene’.
‘Study participants who found the world threatening were less likely to help others — unless they had versions of the receptor genes that are generally associated with niceness,’ says Michel Poulin, lead author of the study. ‘So if one of your neighbors seems really generous, caring, civic-minded kind of person, while another seems more selfish, tight-fisted and not as interested in pitching in, their DNA may help explain why one of them is nicer than the other.’
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Poulin, M., Holman, E., & Buffone, A. (2012). The Neurogenetics of Nice: Receptor Genes for Oxytocin and Vasopressin Interact With Threat to Predict Prosocial Behavior Psychological Science DOI: 10.1177/0956797611428471