New research: Genes may influence popularity

Dec 22, 2008

A groundbreaking study of popularity by a Michigan State University scientist has found that genes elicit not only specific behaviors but also the social consequences of those behaviors.

According to the investigation by behavioral geneticist S. Alexandra Burt, male college students who had a gene associated with rule-breaking behavior were rated most popular by a group of previously unacquainted peers.

It's not unusual for adolescent rule-breakers to be well-liked – previous research has made that link – but Burt is the first to provide meaningful evidence for the role of a specific gene in this process. The study appears in the latest issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, which is 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 Burt, assistant professor of psychology. "And so what's happening is, your genes are to some extent driving your social experiences."

The concept – which researchers call "evocative gene-environment correlation" – had been discussed in scientific literature but only in theory. This study is the first to really flesh out the process, establishing clear connections between a specific gene, particular behaviors and actual social situations, she said.

Burt collected DNA from more than 200 male college students in two separate samples. After interacting in a lab setting for about an hour, the students filled out a questionnaire about whom they most liked in their group. In both samples, the most popular students turned out to be the ones with a particular form of a serotonin gene that was also associated with rule-breaking behavior.

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

Burt is working on similar studies with female college students, as well as mixed-gender social groups. She also plans to explore associations with other social behaviors and other genes in larger samples.

Source: Michigan State University

Explore further: Understanding psychosis and schizophrenia

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Watson-powered app to answer wellness-related questions

Nov 15, 2014

A clinical laboratory that offers genetic testing services globally has received an investment from the IBM Watson Group. The bioinformatics market, which includes genetics, is expected to grow to $12.86 ...

The flight of the frisky tui

Nov 12, 2014

New Zealand's endemic tui (Prosthemadera novaseelandiae) have a tendency to 'jump the fence' when looking to breed, a study by Massey University researcher Dr Sarah Wells shows.

How mutualisms evolve in a world of selfish genes

Nov 11, 2014

Reproduction for a female fig wasp can be a nightmarish process. When she is ready to lay her eggs, she leaves the fig in which she was born and became pregnant and searches for another. After she finds it, ...

The cat's meow: Genome reveals clues to domestication

Nov 10, 2014

Cats and humans have shared the same households for at least 9,000 years, but we still know very little about how our feline friends became domesticated. An analysis of the cat genome by researchers at Washington ...

Questioning GMOs

Nov 07, 2014

Are genetically engineered foods safe? Truth is, we probably don't know. "The scientific debate is not resolved, even though many people are claiming it is," says Sheldon Krimsky, the Lenore Stern Professor ...

Recommended for you

Understanding psychosis and schizophrenia

10 hours ago

A report published today by the British Psychological Society's Division of Clinical Psychology challenges received wisdom about the nature of mental illness.

"Body recognition" compares with fingerprint ID

Nov 27, 2014

(Medical Xpress)—University of Adelaide forensic anatomy researchers are making advances in the use of "body recognition" for criminal and missing persons cases, to help with identification when a face ...

User comments : 5

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Dunbar
1.6 / 5 (7) Dec 22, 2008
Laughable!

What idiots are resonsible for funding this sort of nonsense? The amount of variables involved in this study are astronomical - throwing a dart at a board filled with "possible outcomes" would be just as valid.

Sociobiology = any crank welcome!
ArtflDgr
1 / 5 (8) Dec 22, 2008
Dunbar seems to think that biological machines have magical ability beyond their construction. because dunbar isnt capable or man is not capable yet of understanding it fully. which means that such discoveries are going to bother dunbar alot and that the machine takes in more informaiotn and acts on it than just what he is concious of.

i can look back and i can imaging dunbar as a primitive man standing there talking all so much about how progressive he is and how fire is just a fad and will come to nothing.
DeadCorpse
1.1 / 5 (8) Dec 22, 2008
Hhmm... here I thought one of the laws of scientific discovery was that "correlation is not causation". This entire premise seems based off it.

What next? Do spoons really make people fat?
Corban
not rated yet Dec 22, 2008
Hypothetically, if the link between nature and nurture was reduced down to math, then knowing one would know the other. Nature -> Nurture, Nurture -> Nature. Of course, then we have to ask ourself: what's going to happen with that power?

Who should we encourage to have that power?
What limits should we place on that power?
Should we allow anyone to possess it?

These are common ethical equations for any breakthrough.
jaaa
not rated yet Dec 22, 2008
Oh hey 19th century genealogical predisposition, didn't know you were making a comeback.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.