Monday, 22 Dec, 2008 Science

Genes Can Make You Popular, Scientist Says


A researcher from the Michigan State University made a revolutionary research to discover that genes bring out not only certain behaviors, but also the social outcomes of those behaviors.

S. Alexandra Burt, behavioral geneticist and assistant professor of psychology, made a study on the subject to find that male college students, who featured a gene related to rule-breaking behavior, were considered to be the most popular by a group of previously unacquainted students.

Previous studies managed to find that adolescent rule-breakers are considered popular in college, but Burt's recent study is the first to find that a specific gene is involved in this process.

The research and its results can be found in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, a journal published by the American Psychological Association.

"The idea is that your genes predispose you to certain behaviors and those behaviors elicit different kinds of social reactions from others" said the researcher.

"And so what's happening is, your genes are to some extent driving your social experiences," explains Burt.

It is interesting to note that the upper mentioned concept, which scientists dubbed "evocative gene-environment correlation," served as a discussion topic in scientific literature. However, scientists discussed the concept only from the theoretical point of view. The current research is the first to particularize the process. Burt provided clear links between a particular gene, specific behaviors and real social situations.

She gathered DNA from over 200 male college students in 2 different samples. Then students interacted in a laboratory setting for an hour. Afterwards they were asked to fill a questionnaire, where they had to name the person they liked the most in their group. Burt found that both samples showed the same result, i.e. the most well-liked students were those who had a specific form of serotonin gene that was related to rule-breaking behavior.

"So the gene predisposed them to rule-breaking behavior and their rule-breaking behavior made them more popular," she said.

Currently the researcher is performing a similar study on female college students and mixed-gender social groups. In addition, Burt looks forward to investigate in larger samples associations with other social behaviors and genes.

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