Are Some of Us Born More Empathetic?

empathyCould be, according to a new study that suggests how well we empathize is influenced by our oxytocin receptor gene. The hormone oxytocin, as regular readers of this blog will remember, has long been linked to our sense of trust and desire to connect with others.
We inherit a variation, or “allele,” of the receptor gene from each parent, and Oregon State University psychologist Sarina Rodrigues and her colleagues found that the most empathetic people had two copies of the G allele. Those who had two copies of the A allele or one copy of the G allele and one copy of the A allele had a tougher time reading others’ eye expressions and emotions. Of course, genes alone do not dictate behavior, Rodrigues cautions:

I tested myself and while I am not in the GG group, I’d like to think that I am a very caring person with empathy for others. These findings can help us understand that some of us are born with a tendency to be more empathic and stress reactive than others, and that we should reach out to those who may be naturally closed-off from people because social connectivity and belongingness benefits everyone.

Category: Genetics

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  1. […] multifaceted concept like empathy can be reduced to genetics. We have been very cautious about what our research implies, but unfortunately, media reports can sometimes overstate […]

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