Genes Influence Our Ability To Feel Empathy, Study Finds

CBS Local– Can our genes be the dominating factor in our ability to feel and understand the emotions of others? According to a study published in Molecular Psychiatry, indeed it is nature greater than nurture when it comes to empathy.

The study analyzed a large swath of data, from more than 89,000 people across the world. Pariticpants had to complete “Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test” where they’d be shown pictures of someone’s eyes and be given a choice of what emotion they were portraying. As already assumed, women performed better than men on these types of tests, though the women that performed highest had similar genetic variants.

“We are excited by this new discovery, and are now testing if the results replicate, and exploring precisely what these genetic variants do in the brain, to give rise to individual differences in cognitive empathy,” said Simon Baron-Cohen, lead author of the study, via 23andme.com. “This new study takes us one step closer in understanding such variation in the population.”

Previous studies on this matter were inconclusive due to their size. This one was able to gather a larger sample to help with its credibility.

“Finding genetic influences for these kinds of traits and conditions was just not possible in the past because the studies were simply too small,” said David Hinds, principal scientist. “Now that we have large cohorts of research participants — in the tens of thousands and sometimes hundreds of thousands — studies are yielding never seen before results. All thanks to research participation on a massive scale.”

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