Generosity, it’s all in the genes new research shows
Generosity appears to run in families and now scientists say they can show it is genetic.
Researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem gave 203 people $US12 in an online task in which they could either keep or give away the money. Gene tests revealed that those who had certain variants of a gene called AVPR1a were on average nearly 50% more likely to give money away.
The study appears online in the journal Genes, Brain and Behavior.
The gene AVPR1a plays a key role in allowing a hormone called arginine vasopressin to act on brain cells. Vasopressin, in turn, has been implicated in social bonding.
The researchers found greater altruism in players in which a key section of the gene, called its promoter, was longer.
The promoter is the region that determines how active a gene is. In this case a longer promoter makes the gene more active. A version of the gene that promotes social bonding also exists in voles.
This could connect the need to build social networks and bond with others to being generous to those we care about, researchers say.
So the next time you consider where you want to invest your money, and decide on an altruistic option, you’ll know it’s your genes talking.