How empathetic we are can be traced to genes: study

Updated 2018-03-14 17:16:07 Xinhua

Some people are born to be more empathetic than others. A new study of some 46,800 people has found scientific evidence that genes to some degree impact how empathetic we are.

The study, published on Monday in the journal Translational Psychiatry, found that at least 10 percent of the differences in how empathetic people are can be explained by genetics.

Empathy, the ability to recognize and respond to the emotional states of other individuals, is considered important in social interactions and relationship maintaining. It's been traditionally believed to be something we develop through growing up and can be shaped by life experiences.

The new study measured participants' empathy with online self-reported questionnaire, which is comprised of 60 questions, and tested their DNA with saliva samples.

Varun Warrier, from the University of Cambridge who led the study, noted that since only a tenth of the variation in the degree of empathy between individuals is down to genetics, it's also important to understand the non-genetic factors.

Male and female participants perform differently on the tests, with women scoring higher than men on average, but there was "limited" evidence on gender-specific genetic differences.

Scientists also found that genetic differences that are associated with lower empathy were also linked to higher risk of autism.

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