OSU Logo Kindness is an attribute inadvertently hardwired into many people. Are some genes coming into play here too? In an interesting study, experts from the Oregon State University have found that even strangers apparently spotted people with a specific genetic variation to be more kindhearted and trustworthy through a 20 seconds silent video.

For the investigation, about 23 romantic pairs were videotaped while one person described a period of agony in their lives. The other person reacted to it through physical and non-verbal reactions which were most importantly noted in the analysis.

Other groups constituting complete strangers viewed the videos and were instructed to rate the act based on attributes such as kindness, caring nature and trustworthiness. The actions shown to the strangers were barely 20 seconds of silent videos.

“Our findings suggest even slight genetic variation may have tangible impact on people’s behavior, and that these behavioral differences are quickly noticed by others,” specified Aleksandr Kogan, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto and the study’s lead author.

Even before the videos were recorded, the scientists located the genotypes of the couples. Those who carried two copies of the G version of the gene associated with the oxytocin receptor were seemingly more prosocial. These persons apparently behaved in a way that is beneficial to others.

On the contrary, those who carried A version of the gene namely AG or AA genotypes seemed to be more prone to autism and lower levels of positivity, empathy and parental sensitivity. Oxytocin has already been known to play an important role in social interactions and reduction in stress.

Among the 10 persons who were evaluated by observers as being the most prosocial, 6 seemed to possess the GG genotype linked to oxytocin receptor. Out of the 10 who were noted for being the least trustworthy, 9 of them carried the A version of the gene. The latter were apparently rated as being less kind, less trustworthy and less caring towards their mates in the video.

However, the exact mechanism of how a particular version of the gene influences the biology of behavior is still not clear. The scientists concluded that the oxytocin receptor as well as genetic and non-genetic forces may be primarily involved in a person being kind or co-operative.

The analysis is published in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).