A new study carried out by researchers at New York's University at Buffalo and the University of California, Irvine has found that some people may have a genetic predisposition to be nice to others.
For the study, the researchers reviewed the DNA of 771 adults who participated in an online survey. They asked a series of questions about how each participant treated others and then reviewed their gene maps according to the responses.
Many of those who displayed high degrees of caring for others had specific variations of a gene that is associated with human kindness.
"We aren't saying we've found the niceness gene," said researcher and psychologist Michael Poulin, Ph.D. "But we have found a gene that makes a contribution. What I find so interesting is the fact that it only makes a contribution in the presence of certain feelings people have about the world around them."
Taking a closer look, the report examined receptor producing genes oxytocin and vasopressin as to how they influence prosocial behavior in the laboratory and in the context of close relationships. Oxytocin and vasopressin may also promote social engagement following threat. The study examined how the two gene receptors interacted with perceived threats to predict engagement in volunteer work or charitable activities and commitment to civic duty. Oxytocin, vasopressin, and their receptor genes may significantly influence prosocial behavior and may lie at the core of the caregiving behavioral system, according to the report.
And though these gene variations were common in people considered "nice," the researchers found that there is also a psychological aspect.
"The study found that these genes combined with people's perceptions of the world as a more or less threatening place to predict generosity," Poulin said. "Specifically, 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."
by RTT Staff Writer
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