The Corner

Genetic Determinism Watch

How caring and empathetic are you? It depends in part on your genes.

At a certain location on the genome is a gene that comes in two flavors, G and A. Since you carry two copies of each gene, you are either a GG, an AG, or an AA. The gene is involved in tuning nervous-system receptors for the neurotransmitter oxytocin.

Individuals homozygous for the G allele (carrying two copies of the G version of the gene) of the oxytocin receptor tend to be more “prosocial,” defined by researchers as the ability to behave in a way that benefits another person. In contrast, the carriers of the A version of the gene (AG or AA genotypes) tend to have a higher risk of autism, as well as self-reported lower levels of positive emotions, empathy and parental sensitivity.

The effect is sufficiently strong that research subjects, observing 20-second silent video clips of strangers, could tell you with fair accuracy which genetic variation the stranger carried.

Randall Parker speculates on social implications at FuturePundit:

Which genetic variants will people choose for their offspring when they become able to make such choices? Will the world become a more or less empathetic place once people can choose which genes their kids can get? Will humanity diverge into very empathetic and very not empathetic groups? Will the empathetic empathize even with the turbo unempathetic?

Perhaps the GGs and AAs should form their own social media social circles …

You may not be interested in this stuff, but it’s interested in you.

And at some point there’s a political dimension. For example: Can an AA get elected President?


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