Strangers can spot 'kindness' gene

2011-11-15 08:27
Washington - 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 behaviours.

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 behaviour, and that these behavioural differences are quickly noticed by others," said lead author Aleksandr Kogan, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto.

Nine out 10 people who were judged by the neutral observers to be "least trusted" carried the A version of the gene, while six out 10 deemed "most pro-social" had the GG genotype.

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.

"The oxytocin receptor gene in particular has become of great interest because a select number of studies suggest that it is related to how pro-social people view themselves," Kogan said.

"Our study asked the question of whether these differences manifest themselves in behaviours that are quickly detectable by strangers, and it turns out they did."

However, no gene trait can entirely predict a person's behaviour, and more research is needed to find out how the variant affects the underlying biology of behaviour.

"These are people who just may need to be coaxed out of their shells a little," said senior author Sarina Rodrigues Saturn, an assistant professor of psychology at Oregon State University whose previous research established the genetic link to empathetic behaviour.

"It may not be that we need to fix people who exhibit less social traits, but that we recognise they are overcoming a genetically influenced trait and that they may need more understanding and encouragement."
Read more on:    genetics

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

linking and moving

2015-04-22 07:36 publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
1 comment
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


China's air pollution at doomsday levels

China has long been struggling with air pollution issues but just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse – it has.



Moving short film on ivory trade
10 Tips for Greener Shopping
How safe are your baby products?
5 maps that will change the way you see the world

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts

The pace may be slow today and you may struggle to get things off the ground level, but it is important to focus on the more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.