If you seem to have a sign written on your forehead that says you care more, maybe it’s in your genes, a new study suggests.
We all have about three billion letters in our genetic code, but people who have a two copies of the "G" gene in their DNA seem to be more empathetic and are more trustworthy, compassionate and cooperative – and it can be detected in about 20 seconds, says Aleksandr Kogan, a social psychologist at the University of Toronto at Mississauga. People who don't have the double G variation are less likely to be empathetic.
A variation in the oxytocin receptor gene can be identified by non-verbal behaviors in people who smile more, offer head nods and eye contact. The findings were published in today’s early online edition published in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy Sciences in the United States of America (PNAS). Oxytocin is sometimes called the “love hormone” and is associated with bonding, sexual arousal and, of course, empathy.
“People who are more empathetic seem to be better at affirming you,” Kogan says. “They are more understanding and they smile. They are going to have more open body posture; their arms are going to be out more, signaling ‘I’m here for you.’ Some, you are going to judge as more empathetic.”
Kogan and his team made this determination when they asked 116 University of Toronto students to watch a short, silent video clip of people with varying oxytocin receptors genes listening to their romantic partners tell them about a time of suffering. The ethnically diverse students -- average age 19 -- were asked to identify which people were more trustworthy, compassionate and cooperative.
After only 20 seconds, the people who watched the video could easily point out which listening partners had the double G genotype and were more empathetic because of their caring body language compared to people who did have this particular empathy gene.
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