Glass Half Full? It Could Be Your Genetics

    October 11, 2013
    Sean Patterson
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People that see the world in a dark light and focus on the negatives in life could have that outlook partially due to their genetics. A new study by researchers from the University of British Columbia has uncovered a genetic predisposition to vividly perceiving negative emotional events.

The study, published recently in the journal Psychological Science, shows that the deletion variant of the ADRA2b gene could affect humans’ real-time perception of emotional events. The gene, which affects the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, has previously been linked to emotional memory formation in the brain.

“This is the first study to find that this genetic variation can significantly affect how people see and experience the world,” said Rebecca Todd, lead author of the study and a Psychology professor at UBC. “The findings suggest people experience emotional aspects of the world partly through gene-coloured glasses – and that biological variations at the genetic level can play a significant role in individual differences in perception.”

Todd and her colleagues looked at 200 study participants, showing them a rapid stream of words. The words were determined to have either positive, negative, or neutral connotations. Those participants who had the ADRA2b deletion gene variant were found to be more likely to percieve negative words in the stream. The perception of positive words was found to be the same between those with the gene variant and those without.

“These individuals may be more likely to pick out angry faces in a crowd of people,” said Todd. “Outdoors, they might notice potential hazards – places you could slip, loose rocks that might fall – instead of seeing the natural beauty.”

  • Really?

    Urgh! I hate these articles. Not because they aren’t interesting, but rather because they are misleading. We all have genes for things in our bodies. Not all genes become active though. Really environment plays a large part in things. Research has proven time and time again – that environment trumps genes in most every case. (Unless, the person has a definite extreme disorder.)

    Yes, a child may have this “negative” gene, but if that child is raised by really positive parents more than likely the child will be very positive because they will learn how to see the positive things. Genes that influence perception are not necessarily the same as those that influence physical things such as hair color.

    I am not saying the study is wrong. I am just cautioning people that they are not necessarily a slave to their genetics. Harvard actually did a lot of research on this in the area of weight loss. Yes, genes did play a part in a person’s weight but lifestyle was the main factor in weight gain or loss.

  • MAthari

    I will say it. They are wrong. GWAS has shown that there are no genes for intelligence and behavior. These “studies” belong in magazines like star or globe. This is the last vestige of the 1994 book “the bell curve” nonsense. It has been fully debunked http://www.independentsciencenews.org.

  • http://www.atlasbiomechanics.com/dancer_s_sesamoid_pad_s/1879.htm teri green

    Great article. So that explains my son.


    Teri Green

  • http://gps.wustl.edu Maureen

    I don’t really believe in the validity of this research. How do you even measure how emotionally people see things differently? Just a genetic variant doesn’t say anything about personal behavior! People need to be more professional about interpreting their data. Behavior genetics needs to be combined with neuroscience and other disciplines to truly decipher human behavior and emotions.