The Nice Person Gene
Is there a genetic component to kindness?
A new study published in Psychological Science suggests that niceness may be programmed into your DNA. Do you have the makeup to be nice, or are your genes all mean?
Researchers from the University of New York at Buffalo and the University of California, Irvine, examined how genes affect the receptors for two hormones associated with “prosocial” behavior. The hormones oxytocin (more widely known for its role in maternal behavior) and vasopressin have previously been shown to have an influence on high moral functions including the inclination to be kind and selfless. Whether or not you have a gene allowing you to receive those hormones may impact how nice a person you are, according to the study.
Lead researcher Dr. Michael Poulin, who looks like he has a good oxytocin flow, has been interested in why people engage in behaviors that benefit others when there is no obvious, self-serving benefit to being nice. He’s also been studying what makes a person care for others when in a stressful or threatening circumstance, such as in moments of grief or in the heat of battle.
Subjects for the study were each asked a series of questions to determine how they felt about charitable acts such as donating blood, what their perspective was on civic duties like reporting crimes, and what their general views were about people being good or evil. Poulin and his team then took saliva samples from 711 of the subjects to see whether or not they had the receptors for oxytocin and vasopressin.
According to Poulin, “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.”
We can’t exclusively credit those gentler genes for determining who would help an old lady cross the street versus who would kick her in the shins. From what scientists understand, the influence of genetic makeup on personality doesn’t work quite that way. Environmental factors ranging from the way we’re raised to what we eat certainly have an influence on personality, and the researchers emphasize that the connections between DNA and social behavior are complex. The gene doesn’t flip a switch that turns niceness on or off. But in combination with a positive world view, it appears to make an important contribution.
The prospect of being genetically predisposed to kindness raises questions for all personality types. Is genetic makeup responsible for the personalities of people who are too nice, putting other people ahead of themselves to their own detriment? Is it possible they just can’t help themselves? On the flipside, of course, are those who are not so nice at all. Is it possible that the kid who laughed when you smashed your head had a deficit of oxytocin and vasopressin receptor genes — and was not, as you had suspected, just a plain old jerk?
Most intriguingly, if we’re not pre-wired to be nice, can we change?
Photo: Courtesy of the University of Buffalo
Wow, judging from the posts, we don't have to many showing their "nice genes" today.
I am a firm believer that genetics do play a role in the tolorence of others.
Some people are born bad, some good, some just followers of their evironment.
For some, I believe, they can overcome the genetic effects and learn as they grow older to be more sympathetic, empathetic, compassionate and understanding.
But sadly, to many people just never grow up.
The constant bickering of adults who supposedly run this world, explains why it is so unfair. Like children fighting over toys, preaching words they don't follow, and displaying an example to children that doesn't represent adults very well. It leads many others to never grow up and believe that it's acceptable behavior.
Youthful is great! Childish is not. But the trend today is to never grow up, try to stay young, act young, look young, and they all argue like children.
I could only imagine how nice the world could be, if the mature adults could only control the childishness of the kids who really run the show.
I think it's illogical to assume things like height hair color, eye color, facial features are a product of DNA and not things like personality, talents, skills, aptitude, and addictions are not.
I believe science will eventually prove traits beside the physical are passed down through DNA. The moral is:
Be careful who you have kids with. You may not be able to correct defects through proper raising and "environment".
Thanks, fly over country.
That was very nice of you to say.
You're quote was both, youthfully funny, and a great description of the sad truth of our current political system and their ability to create drama and hate amongst the children of this country.
How long can you tread water? Because if people don't grow up and see how they are playing us against each other soon, the ship is certainly going down.
i have always be known as "nice", from my high school year book to my friends today, i always thought it was the way i was raised and the examples my grandparents set for me, as that who raised me. we didn't have alot growing up but back then hobo's would come by and ask to work for food and they really did work not like the guys with their sign today. my grandmother could stretch a meal to feed everyone who came to our door, never complained always had a smile on her face and a good word for everyone, i'm sure she had the "nice" gene, but i really believe she just was doing the right thing and the right time, god love her i sure did.
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