Friday, April 13, 2012 at 3:37 p.m.
If some punk just cut in front of you in the Starbucks line and then told a kid that Santa's not real and snarled at a puppy, you may want to have some compassion.
He may not have niceness in his genes.
Researchers at UC Irvine and the University at Buffalo have found that DNA can help explain why some people are kind and generous.
Their study, "The Neurogenics of Niceness,"
published this month in Psychological Science, looked at the behavior of people with different versions of receptor genes for two hormones--oxytocin and vasopressin--both associated with niceness. Oxytocin has been dubbed the "love drug" and "cuddle chemical" and is known to promote maternal behavior. Vasopressin has been linked economic generosity and may help make men bond with others.
Subjects were surveyed on their attitudes toward civic duty, other people and the world in general--whether they believe it's generally good or bad. They also responded to questions about their charitable activities, such as giving blood, working for a nonprofit or going to PTA meetings.
The study, co-authored by UCI's E. Alison Holman, found that whether or not people believed the world to be a good place, if they had the "nicer" version of the receptor gene, they tended to be generous. Principal author Michel Poulin of the University of Buffalo said that the gene might help people overcome their fears of the world, making them more likely to help others in spite of those fears. The researchers emphasize that they haven't found the "niceness gene," just something that contributes to generosity.
As we've long known, genetics can be a bitch.