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Yet another study on human empathy and kindness

Posted By Deborah Lee On Nov 20, 2011 @ 10:29 am In Sci/Tech | Comments Disabled

Hey man. I see you putting your earphones on

Hey man. I see you putting your earphones on ...

You may remember a post we made [1] about a study that concluded that bashful people tend to be more trustworthy and kind than others. Well, it may be that such trustworthy behavior is based, to an extent, on genetics [2].

Two dozen couples participated in a recent study from UC Berkeley led by Aleksandr Kogan [3] where each couple was recorded as they talked to each other about difficult experiences they went through. Each partner would take turns to talk about their times of suffering or simply listen. Only when a partner was “listening” would they be filmed.

A separate group of participants, unrelated to any of the couples, then watched 20 second video clips of each “listener” [4] and were asked to fill out a survey in which they rated who appeared to be the most empathetic and trustworthy.

The study found that the participants who were rated the most trustworthy were genetically distinct; they had a particular “variation” of the oxytocin receptor gene: the GG genotype (as opposed to the AA or AG genotype). Oxytocin is a hormone that greatly effects how people interact and bond with each other, explaining its nickname as the “love hormone.”

How did people single out participants with the GG genotype? As you may know, there are certain types of body language that people interpret as “caring” or “kind” behavior. Those with the GG genotype displayed more of these external signals than other participants, such as smiling and direct eye contact.

An interesting study to say the least. To what extent are our personalities molded by genetics? Can you blame nature for being a total jerk (“I was just born this way [5], dammit”)?  We will leave such deep contemplations to you, reader.

Image Source: ky_olsen [6] under Creative Commons
Is a stranger genetically wired to be trustworthy? You’ll know in 20 seconds [UC Berkely NewsCenter [2]]


Article printed from The Daily Clog: http://clog.dailycal.org

URL to article: http://clog.dailycal.org/2011/11/20/yet-another-study-on-human-empathy-and-kindness/

URLs in this post:

[1] a post we made: http://clog.dailycal.org/2011/11/07/study-shows-that-bashful-people-are-better-than-you/#more-33396

[2] trustworthy behavior is based, to an extent, on genetics: http://newscenter.berkeley.edu/2011/11/14/wired-to-be-trustworthy/

[3] Aleksandr Kogan: http://research.berkeley.edu/haas_scholars/scholars/2007-2008/scholars/Kogan.html

[4] 20 second video clips of each “listener”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zngSaBF0e1I&feature=player_embedded

[5] I was just born this way: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wV1FrqwZyKw&ob=av2e

[6] ky_olsen: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ky_olsen/3133347219/

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