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    Default Human Niceness Partly Determined at Genetic Level

    CNN Article

    A new study in the journal Psychological Science suggests this: If you think the world is full of threatening people, you're not going feel compelled to be generous by doing things like volunteering and donating to charity. But if you have certain gene variants, you're more likely to be nice anyway.

    Now hold on a minute - this doesn't give your mean neighbor an excuse to blame his DNA for not letting kids on the block play on his lawn.

    It's a little more complicated than that.

    The research: A few questions and some spit
    Researchers offered an online survey to participants asking questions like:
    –do people have a duty to pay taxes?
    –are people basically good or bad?
    –do you engage in charitable activities?

    Then some participants sent in samples of their saliva so researchers could check out their DNA. A total of 348 U.S. residents were included in the final analysis.

    Researchers analyzed the spit samples. They looked at the particular variants of receptor genes these people had for the hormones oxytocin and vasopressin.
    It turns out that if the receptors are especially sensitive to oxytocin and vasopressin, even people who fear others in society will do nice things, said Michael Poulin, assistant professor of psychology at the University at Buffalo and study co-author.

    "We’ve found that these genes also predict people’s willingness to be nice on behalf of other people or aggressive on behalf of other people," Poulin said. In other words, such biological factors may influence your willingness to defend someone else.

    That is consistent with other research, which found that rat mothers are more willing to be aggressive on behalf of pups when they received oxytocin.
    Psychological Science Study: The Neurogenetics of Nice: Receptor Genes for Oxytocin and Vasopressin Interact With Threat to Predict Prosocial Behavior

    Oxytocin, vasopressin, and their receptor genes may significantly influence prosocial behavior and may lie at the core of the caregiving behavioral system.
    However, if oxytocin and vasopressin are introduced to the body artificially they have different effects.

    But while the hormones have similar effects on the brain, they differ in the rest of the body. Oxytocin can induce labor. Vasopressin increases when you're thirsty and prevents the formation of urine.
    So I guess people can't be "made nice" by pumping them full of oxytocin and vasopressin, eh? I wonder if they thought this information could lead to the hormonal treatment of antisocial behaviors in select individuals? Maybe it can eventually, but it seems that the gene receptors are the key rather than the hormones themselves... I dunno. I'm no genetics buff.
    "The purpose of life is to be defeated by greater and greater things." - Rainer Maria Rilke

  2. #2
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    Well, just by going with what's in the article:

    Researchers analyzed the spit samples. They looked at the particular variants of receptor genes these people had for the hormones oxytocin and vasopressin.
    If you have a lot of receptors, then shooting yourself up with these chemicals would fill them and create the desired effect (along with whatever side effects).

    Those without many of the receptors could be shot way full of the same drugs, but since they only have a limited number of receptors, they'd already be maxed out.

    The number of receptors is like an upper boundary for "niceness" I suppose, here.

    [Which I think is what you basically said yourself at the end -- it's the receptors, not the drugs per se.]

    If you study anti-depressants/mood changers, you'll run across different categories of pills. Some basically are extra chemicals to help fill the slots. Others basically block slots so that the uptake of the chemicals (i.e., their "expiration date") is much slower. There's a few different angles by which to try and create the same effect.
    "Hey Capa -- We're only stardust." ~ "Sunshine"

    “Pleasure to me is wonder—the unexplored, the unexpected, the thing that is hidden and the changeless thing that lurks behind superficial mutability. To trace the remote in the immediate; the eternal in the ephemeral; the past in the present; the infinite in the finite; these are to me the springs of delight and beauty.” ~ H.P. Lovecraft

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