Is There Really a "Nice Gene"?


| 3 Comments
Have you ever wondered why some people just seem generally nicer than others? Well, according to this
article there could be a genetic factor that contributes to a person's demeanor, whether he or she is generally pleasant and nice or unpleasant and mean. According to the article, the determinate is not entirely genetic, but based on one's hormone levels, particularly his or her levels of 
oxytocin. Oxytocin is the hormone most widely associated with bonding and relationships in humans.

With that said, the question here does not seem to be whether or not a person possesses a single gene that causes him or her to be nice but rather if he or she is producing higher levels of oxytocin than others. Here, the question lies: what is the relationship between oxytocin and niceness. Does oxytocin cause people to be nice? Or is reverse causation at work here with people being nice causing increased levels of oxytocin? Or maybe is there even a third variable at work that has nothing to do with a relationship between the two?

mean.jpgHere, I think there could be several options. It is known that relations and bonding between people cause production of oxytocin. Are more social people just more likely to bond with others, therefore producing oxytocin and resulting in them acting nicely towards others? Or does oxytocin make people want to bond with other humans, causing them to act in a way that is more welcoming to their fellow humans? On the same note, does the opposite apply to those who are generally mean?

What do you think? Is there reverse causation or a third variable happening here?

3 Comments

I don't believe a predetermined level of oxytocin is what makes a person nice or not nice -- especially because you stated that "relations and bonding between people cause production of oxytocin". I believe how nice a person is related to strictly psychological experiences and environmental exposure factors.

I found a website with an explanation that more elaboratively backs up my belief on a broader scale. The website provides an explanation of personality development, and explains that genetics can affect a personality, but not directly in a way that a person would have "nice genes" or "bad genes".

Instead, the explanation explains that the only role genes play in personality development is the way genetics may affect people in social situations. For example, genetic based traits like poor coordination in gym class or a physical flaw may cause someone to be pessimistic, nervous, etc.

So to answer your final question, I'd say it's reverse causation with the debate of oxytocin. Someone who is willing to bond with others and have comfortable relationships with others will have heightened levels of the hormone as a result from their ability to bond. And this ability to bond is probably a result of healthy family/friend relationships from early childhood.

I am currently taking a personality psychology course, and last semester I took a social psychology course. After learning about both of these perspectives, I am not afraid to admit that I still don't know where personality truly comes from. In social psychology, we learned that you are the way you are because of which situation you are placed in. If you are put in a high stress situation, like taking a test, you might lash out and be meaner. Others may then deem you as a "mean person," not taking the situation you are in at the time into account. Maybe if they interacted with you while you were out having fun at a party, they would call you a, "nice, fun person." Personality psychology says that the situation definitely adds to how you act in a situation, but more importantly the way you were raised shapes who you are and who you turn out to be. If you were well cared for as a child, it is more likely for you to grow up balanced and "nice." And now, after reading your article, yet another variable is put into play: anatomy. So now it leads me to wonder, is this chemical really what trumps everything else, having your personality predetermined at birth? Or is it the power of the situation? Or, is it not up to you at all, but those around you when you are growing up? I'm not really sure how you could test or experiment this - besides a a very unethical experiment. One, a control group to test for the oxytocin in your body. Not doing anything, just seeing how nice people are or aren't. Another would be separate groups who have different type of parenting, good or bad based on what is said in a personality psychology textbook. And, a third of just testing how people are and aren't based on different social situations with various parenting styles. Now, obviously there are many flaws in the experiment - aside from the fact of how ethical it is - but I really don't know how else we will ever really know the answer.

I feel like this is a question that is very hard to be solved. Weather you're nice because you have this gene, or you're nice and you have the gene. One of my opinions is that a gene can't really make your personality be a certain way. I wrote a blog about a "funny gene" and concluded that you may possess a gene that can make you more likely to act a certain way but a gene can't actually make you act that way. This also bring up the nature vs nurture argument. Are we nice or mean because of our genetic makeup or because of what we were surrounded by growing up? This is always hard to prove because most people who are nice have nice parents, so we know know if they're nice because their parents gave them that gene, or because they were raised that way. What do you think?

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