Opinion (Michael Poulin, psychologist at the University at Buffalo): “What makes some people give blood and bake casseroles for their neighbors, while others mutter about taxes from behind closed blinds? A new paper published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science finds that part of the answer—but not all—may be in their genes.
“The hormones oxytocin and vasopressin are thought to affect how people behave toward each other. For example, lab tests have found that people play nicer in economic games after having oxytocin squirted up their nose. ‘This is an attempt to take this into the real world a little bit,’ says Michael Poulin.
“‘What makes you think of one of your neighbors as a really generous, caring, civic-minded kind of person, while another is more selfish, tight-fisted, and not as interested in pitching in?’ asks Poulin. Those neighbors’ DNA may help explain why one of them is nicer. ‘We aren’t saying we’ve found the niceness gene,’ he says. ‘We have found a gene that makes a contribution, but I think there’s something cool about the fact that it only makes a contribution in the presence of certain feelings people have about the world around them.’”