Is Kindness a Genetic Trait?

Kindness might be a genetic trait. It appears to be connected to a person's oxytocin receptor genes — people who had a GG genotype were found to be generally more trustworthy, empathetic and "pro-social" than people who had other genotypes in a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. What's more, this trait is apparent to strangers even through brief contact. In the study, researchers identified the genotypes of couples, then had one partner listen while the other told a story that involved suffering while they videotaped the couple. They then had other people watch the tapes, and the observers picked out nine of the 10 non-GG genotype people in about 20 seconds.

More facts about kindness:

  • One reason that people might be able to detect kindness in others is body language. People who have the "kindness gene" typically have more open and affirmative body language than those who do not.

  • Those who don't have GG genotypes might simply be less sensitive to certain types of emotions or social cues. They also are statistically at a higher risk for autism.

  • The oxytocin receptor gene also is connected to feelings of love. Oxytocin is a hormone that is released when people fall in love and during sex, childbirth or breastfeeding. It also helps promote empathy and is linked with social recognition.

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