Genes predispose some people to focus on the negative

October 10, 2013, University of British Columbia
Credit: Tracy Whiteside, iStock / University of British Columbia

(Medical Xpress)—A new study by a University of British Columbia researcher finds that some people are genetically predisposed to see the world darkly.

The study, published in Psychological Science, finds that a previously known gene variant can cause individuals to perceive emotional events—especially negative ones – more vividly than others.

"This is the first study to find that this genetic variation can significantly affect how people see and experience the world," says Prof. Rebecca Todd of UBC's Dept. of Psychology. "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 ."

The gene in question is the ADRA2b deletion variant, which influences the hormone and . Previously found to play a role in the formation of emotional memories, the new study shows that the ADRA2b deletion variant also plays a role in real-time perception.

The study's 200 participants were shown positive, negative and neutral words in a rapid succession. Participants with the ADRA2b gene variant were more likely to perceive negative words than others, while both groups perceived positive words better than neutral words to an equal degree.

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

The findings shed new light on ways in which genetics – combined with other factors such as education, culture, and moods – can affect individual differences in emotional perception and human subjectivity, the researchers say.

Further research is planned to explore this phenomenon across ethnic groups. While more than half of Caucasians are believed to have the ADRA2b gene variant, statistics suggest it is significantly less prevalent in other ethnicities. For example, a recent study found that only 10 per cent of Rwandans had the ADRA2b .

Explore further: Gene variant linked to prognosis in inflammatory diseases

More information: Genes for emotion-enhanced remembering are linked to enhanced perceiving, Psychological Science, 2013.

Related Stories

Gene variant linked to prognosis in inflammatory diseases

October 8, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—Researchers have identified a gene that is linked to long term disease outcome in Crohn's disease, a common inflammatory bowel disorder, and rheumatoid arthritis. The findings reveal targets that could ...

Why blame feels hard to take

October 3, 2013
When something we do produces a positive result, we actually perceive it differently than we would if that same action yielded a negative result. In particular, people feel a greater connection between voluntary actions and ...

Wedded bliss or blues? Scientists link DNA to marital satisfaction

October 7, 2013
What makes some people more prone to wedded bliss or sorrow than others? Researchers at UC Berkeley and Northwestern University have found a major clue in our DNA. A gene involved in the regulation of serotonin can predict ...

Gene impedes recovery from alcoholism

November 15, 2011
People who are alcohol-dependent and who also carry a particular variant of a gene run an increased risk of premature death. This is a recent finding from the interdisciplinary research at the Department of Psychology and ...

Same gene variant promotes pain in women, suppresses pain in men

April 12, 2013
More women than men develop chronic low back pain and sciatica. The explanation may lie with a gene variant that plays into the body's pain regulation.

Rare gene variant linked to macular degeneration

September 17, 2013
An international team of researchers, led by scientists at The Genome Institute at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the University of Michigan School of Public Health in Ann Arbor, has identified ...

Recommended for you

Babies' babbling betters brains, language

January 18, 2018
Babies are adept at getting what they need - including an education. New research shows that babies organize mothers' verbal responses, which promotes more effective language instruction, and infant babbling is the key.

College branding makes beer more salient to underage students

January 18, 2018
In recent years, major beer companies have tried to capitalize on the salience of students' university affiliations, unveiling marketing campaigns and products—such as "fan cans," store displays, and billboard ads—that ...

Inherited IQ can increase in early childhood

January 18, 2018
When it comes to intelligence, environment and education matter – more than we think.

Modulating molecules: Study shows oxytocin helps the brain to modulate social signals

January 17, 2018
Between sights, sounds, smells and other senses, the brain is flooded with stimuli on a moment-to-moment basis. How can it sort through the flood of information to decide what is important and what can be relegated to the ...

Baby brains help infants figure it out before they try it out

January 17, 2018
Babies often amaze their parents when they seemingly learn new skills overnight—how to walk, for example. But their brains were probably prepping for those tasks long before their first steps occurred, according to researchers.

Reducing sessions of trauma-focused psychotherapy does not affect effectiveness

January 17, 2018
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) patients treated with as few as five sessions of trauma-focused psychotherapy find it equally effective as receiving 12 sessions.

2 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

hemitite
1 / 5 (4) Oct 10, 2013
"Eeyore," said Owl, "Christopher Robin is giving a party."
"Very interesting," said Eeyore. "I suppose they will be sending me down the odd bits which got trodden on. Kind and Thoughtful. Not at all, don't mention it."
Sinister1811
2.3 / 5 (9) Oct 11, 2013
No, they're just being more realistic. Optimistic people are lying to themselves.

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.