We all have that one friend who never shit-talks anyone, discreetly volunteers at the dog shelter every weekend, and refuses to steal olives from the food court — and she's not even annoying about any of it because she's just so goddamned nice. What's her deal? Was she raised differently? Is she high on the goodwill of the holy spirit? Eh. New research says she may just be born that way.
Basically, people who have the hormones oxytocin — which makes us act so social and "maternal" that even stodgy Science magazine calls it the "cuddle chemical" — and vasopressin linked a certain way are considered nicer when it comes to close relationships. So scientists were curious whether the chemicals would also cause "pro-social" behavior, like the urge to donate to charity, pay your taxes, report crimes, give blood, and participate in jury duty. Subjects who were polled about how often they did those activities were also asked how they felt about the world and humanity in general. Those who said they considered life "threatening" were less likely to help others — unless they had versions of the "nice" receptor genes, which "allow you to overcome feelings of the world being threatening and help other people in spite of those fears."
"So if one of your neighbors seems really generous, caring, civic-minded kind of person, while another seems more selfish, tight-fisted and not as interested in pitching in, their DNA may help explain why one of them is nicer than the other," said Michel Poulin, PhD, the study's principal author. "We aren't saying we've found the niceness gene. But we have found a gene that makes a contribution. What I find so interesting is the fact that it only makes a contribution in the presence of certain feelings people have about the world around them." Which means, disappointingly, that we may never be able to inject all of the assholes we know with some sort of de-assification serum. Science has failed us yet again.
Born Nice? Peoples' Niceness May Reside in Their Genes, Study Finds [Science Daily]
Image via Yuri Arcurs /Shutterstock.