Do you like to do good things for other people? If so, your genes might be responsible for this. At least, the results of a study conducted by researchers of the University of Bonn suggest this. According to the study, a minute change in a particular gene is associated with a significantly higher willingness to donate. People with this change gave twice as much money on average to a charitable cause as did other study subjects. The results have now been published in the journal Social Cognitive & Affective Neuroscience (doi: 10.1093/scan/nsq083).
The researchers working with the psychologist Professor Dr. Martin Reuter invited their students to take a "retention test": The roughly 100 participants were to memorize series of numbers and then repeat them as correctly as possible. They received the sum of five Euros for doing this. Afterwards, they could either take their hard-earned money home or donate any portion of it to a charitable cause. This decision was made freely and in apparent anonymity. "However, we always knew how much money was in the cash box beforehand and could therefore calculate the amount donated", explains Reuter.
COMT-Met carriers do not give up as much money.
This mini-mutation also has effects on behavior: "Students with the COMT-Val gene donated twice as much money on average as did fellow students with the COMT-Met variant", explains Reuter. This is the first time that researchers have been able to establish a connection between a particular gene and altruistic deeds. However, it was already known from studies on twins that altruistic behavior is also partly influenced by our genes.
This seems fairly easily testable on larger populations. This reminds me: We need web sites where people to use genetic testing services such as 23andme can submit their genetic testing results and take a lot of online tests to check various hypotheses and theories about genes and human nature. A study like the one above could be tested with many thousands of volunteers.
These results point out why we should have the legally recognized right (tell the FDA) to do direct-to-consumer genetic testing btw: If people are free to get lots of genetic test data collected on them on their own nickel then massive voluntary studies of genes and human nature and health could be conducted without anyone ever showing up at a medical clinic or research facility. This could lower the cost of genetic research on humanity by orders of magnitude.
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2010 November 08 10:45 PM Brain Genetics|