your gene is showing

“Strangers can spot ‘kindness’ gene: study”

“People with a certain gene trait are known to be more kind and caring than people without it, and strangers can quickly tell the difference, according to US research published on Monday.

“The variation is linked to the body’s receptor gene of oxytocin, sometimes called the ‘love hormone’ because it often manifests during sex and promotes bonding, empathy and other social behaviors.

“Scientists at Oregon State University devised an experiment in which 23 couples, whose genotypes were known to researchers but not observers, were filmed.

“One member of the couple was asked to tell the other about a time of suffering in his or her life. Observers were asked to watch the listener for 20 seconds, with the sound turned off.

In most cases, the observers were able to tell which of the listeners had the ‘kindness gene’ and which ones did not, said the findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences edition of November 14.

“‘Our findings suggest even slight genetic variation may have tangible impact on people’s behavior, and that these behavioral differences are quickly noticed by others,’ said lead author Aleksandr Kogan, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto….”

see also: Thin-slicing study of the oxytocin receptor (OXTR) gene and the evaluation and expression of the prosocial disposition @pnas.

p.s. – from the afp article:

“People in the study were tested beforehand and found to have GG, AG or AA genotypes for the rs53576 DNA sequence of the oxytocin receptor (OXTR) gene.

“People who have two copies of the G allele are generally judged as more empathetic, trusting and loving.

“Those with AG or AA genotypes tend to say they feel less positive overall, and feel less parental sensitivity. Previous research has shown they also may have a higher risk of autism.”

i got AG, btw. (~_^)

(note: comments do not require an email. got oxytocin?)

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12 Comments

  1. This reminds me of a similar study discussed by Satoshi Kanazawa in his blog post You really, truly CAN judge a book by its cover, that in a setup similar to the one in this experiment, people can accurately gauge which ones were “altruists” or “egoists” (defined as scoring in the top 10% and bottom 10% of a self-report altruism questionnaire, respectively). Apparently, it seems that “altruists” genuinely smile more often, so I wonder if that is the giveaway here. Good to see that they’ve nailed down a genetic link, though.

    Reply

  2. Made me recall a paper on this from mid last year, regarding frequency differences on this SNP between an East Asian population (Koreans) and White Americans and seeking social support

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/notrocketscience/2010/08/16/genes-and-culture-oxtr-gene-influences-social-behaviour-differently-in-americans-and-koreans/

    http://dx.crossref.org/10.1073%2Fpnas.1010830107

    “She notes that the G version of OXTR is more common among white Americans than (in) Korea. It’s tantalisingly possible that American culture has come to emphasise social support partly because more people have genes that skew them towards social behaviour. So genes constrain culture, while culture creates the stage on which genes exact their influence.”

    It’s interesting to me because the story that I normally see from folks like Sailer is that Asians are more socially sensitive. But it might be that they are less socially sensitive naturally and have developed an impressive (?) prosocial (?) collectivist culture to compensate. Also interesting because Asians having a higher probability of an autism type variant seems to line up with them having a similar functional advantage to autistics on spatial and matrix reasoning problems.

    Reply

  3. Looking on ALFRED though, allele differences seem to much larger in terms of African vs European & Asian than between Europeans and Asians… Really none of the African populations seem to have any A/A genotypes at all, except the ones we can say are influenced by Eurasian populations (well, for the American South West its a sure thing, for the Maasai I’m not so sure, but I think that is still the case).

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/SNP/snp_ref.cgi?rs=rs535765

    Reply

  4. @jayman – “This reminds me of a similar study discussed by Satoshi Kanazawa in his blog post You really, truly CAN judge a book by its cover….”

    cool! thnx for the link.

    Reply

  5. @anonymous – “I have AG too”

    i should’ve really titled the post “your allele is showing,” shouldn’t i have? … oh, well. that’s what i get (or, rather, that’s what you all get) when i write something before my morning coffee. (^_^)

    Reply

  6. @matt – “But it might be that they are less socially sensitive naturally and have developed an impressive (?) prosocial (?) collectivist culture to compensate.”

    and/or there are lots of other genes involved in being prosocial as well. you’d think there must be … we’re pretty complex creatures.

    @matt – “Really none of the African populations seem to have any A/A genotypes at all, except the ones we can say are influenced by Eurasian populations….”

    well that’s awfully interesting, isn’t it?!

    Reply

  7. @rs – “Totally cool. I wonder if this will stand.”

    ed @notrocketscience writes about how the study has gotten quite a lot of criticism from genetics/science bloggers (no big surprise there) ’cause the sample size is very small (n=20-something). (that’s why they say they don’t like it anyway.) so, yeah, results need to be taken with some caution — and it would be nice if others repeat the experiment (or like experiments) to see what results they get.

    still cool, tho!

    Reply

  8. Oh, I wanted to mention that I cited the article you discuss here in my new blog post at my new blog, jayman.blog.com, thanks!

    Reply

  9. being able to spot GG people is adaptive because if you land one you get the free rider bonus from game theory. GG people get snapped up quick.

    Reply

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