Published on April 11th, 2012 | by James Johnson0
Being “Nice” Is In Your Genes [Study]
If you are a generally nice person you might not be able to help yourself, that’s the message being delivered by researchers at the University of Buffalo this week. The group believes that specific genes passed on from our parents could be responsible at least in part for how nice we are.
The study titled “The Neurogenics of Niceness,” is published this month in Psychological Science was led by Michel Poulin, PhD, assistant professor of psychology and Anneke Buffone of the University of California, Irvine.
The researchers examined the behavior of subjects who have versions of receptor genes for two hormones that, in laboratory and close relationship research have been shown to be associated with “niceness.”
In previous laboratory studies researchers have linked the hormones oxytocin and vasopressin to the niceness levels of people however Poulin wanted to apply previous findings of social behavior on a larger scale. According to Poulin the hormones work by binding to our cells through receptors that come in different forms and it is a persons genes that control the function of oxytocin and vasopressin receptors.
Subjects took part in an internet survey with questions about civic duty (paying taxes, reporting crimes, etc) and how they feel about the world in general. Researchers then collected 711 DNA samples for analysis to determine if genes really do play a part in a persons life decisions in a positive way when applicable.
According to Poulin:
“The study found that these genes combined with people’s perceptions of the world as a more or less threatening place to predict generosity,” and “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.”
People with the “nicer” genes have a generally more accepting view of the world. According to Poulin:
“The fact that the genes predicted behavior only in combination with people’s experiences and feelings about the world isn’t surprising, because most connections between DNA and social behavior are complex … 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.”
More research is still needed but it is interesting to think that the way our genes are handed down to us can directly be associated with how nice we are to others.