New study has found that being emphatic or not may be inherited. Genes seems to partially influence our ability to empathize with others. The other factors that influence this ability include life experience and upbringing.
Empathy represents the ability to properly recognize (cognitive empathy) and respond (affective empathy) to your peers’ feelings and thoughts. We respond to feelings and thoughts with emotions.
In 2003, a research team from the University of Cambridge invented the Empathy Quotient, which measures a person’s empathy. EQ can assess both types of empathy.
Past studies revealed that some people are more empathic than others while others are better at cognitive empathy but have major issues with affective empathy and vice versa. Also, men seem to be less empathic than women.
People with autism, for instance, can score very poorly at cognitive empathy, while they fare quite well in affective empathy. These people have a hard time recognizing emotions in people.
The latest study, which appeared in Translational Psychiatry, involved 46,000 participants who agreed to complete an EQ test and offered saliva samples to have their genes studied.
Genes Influence Empathy
Lead author Varun Warrier, who is an expert in autism, noted that there are three major findings. First, genetics has a say in how empathic you are. Genes influence empathy by around 10%.
Second, men are less emphatic than women, but the difference is not tied to DNA, as researchers have found. Scientists believe that the difference in sexes may be caused by pre-natal hormones and socialization.
Finally, the genes in those who scored low on empathy put them at a higher risk of having autism.
This is an important step towards understanding the small but important role that genetics plays in empathy,
It is worth noting, though, that 90% of factors that affect empathy are non-genetic.
Image Source: Wikimedia
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