Telltale Signs You’ve Got the ‘Love Hormone’ Gene?
Thursday, November 17, 2011
Canyou tell at first glance if someone is likely to be a good partner or parent?New research suggests that observers can identify the most nurturing andsocially sensitive people, just by watching their behavior for 20 seconds — andthat these highly empathetic people are more likely to have a gene variationassociated with trust and caring.
The genetic variation affects the receptor for oxytocin,often referred to as the “love hormone” or “cuddlechemical” because it plays a role in social bonding, trust, empathy andgenerosity. Levels of oxytocin increase during orgasm and childbirth, and ithelps the formation of bonds between friends, lovers, and parents and children.
Research has shown that people with two G variants ofthe gene are more empathetic and “prosocial,” showing morecompassion, cooperation and positive emotion. In contrast, those with the atleast one A version of the gene tend to be less empathetic, may have worsemental health and are more likely to be autistic.
In the new study, researchers videotaped 23 romanticcouples while one person listened to his or her significant other describe atime of personal suffering. Then, 116 strangers were asked to watch silent20-second clips of the videos and rate the listeners on how supportive andtrustworthy they seemed.
People who were rated as most empathetic based on theirbody language and behavior — things like keeping eye contact, smiling andnodding while their partner spoke, and having open body posture — were alsomore likely to have the GG genotype, researchers found. Of the 10 people ratedthe most trustworthy, six had the GG variant; of the 10 rated lowest on trust,nine had two copies of the A gene variation.
“We were floored by how strongly significant theresults were by genotype for such a small number of people evaluated,”says Sarina Rodrigues Saturn, assistant professor of psychology at Oregon StateUniversity and an author of the study.
Men who carried the GG genotype were also more easilyidentified as being sensitive, compared with the women.