Research: empathy, it’s also a bit in the genes

News 12 March, 2018
  • AFP

    Monday, march 12, 2018 07:32

    Monday, march 12, 2018 07:35

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    PARIS | empathy, ability to understand and pay attention to the feelings of others, is above all the product of our lived experience, but also a little of our genes, showed researchers the british and the French.

    This discovery is one more step in the understanding of autism. This group of disorders affects the effect of ” empathy cognitive “, i.e. the ability to recognize the feelings of others.

    “The largest genetic study conducted on empathy, using the data of more than 46 000 customers of the company 23andMe” (genetic testing), according to the Pasteur Institute who contributed to, was published Monday in the journal Translational Psychiatry.

    There is no objective measure of empathy. But the scientists are based on the ” quotient of empathy “, that gauge a questionnaire developed in 2004 at the university of Cambridge.

    They reconciled the results of this questionnaire and the genome of these 46 000 people, analyzed from a saliva sample.

    Main result: “Our empathy is, in part, genetic. In fact, less than one-tenth of this variation is associated with genetic factors, ” summary Pastor in a press release.

    “Individually each gene plays a small role, and it is therefore difficult to identify,” said one of the authors, Thomas Bourgeron.

    “Secondly, the new study has confirmed that women showed, on average, more empathetic than men. However, this difference is not due to our DNA, ” said the university of Cambridge.

    It can be explained rather by “other biological factors, non-genetic, hormonal, for example,” factors or non-living such as socialization, which differ both in function of the sex “.

    Finally, the study shows “that the genetic variations associated with a lower empathy are also at a higher risk of autism,” according to Cambridge.

    Highlight genetic factors ” helps us to understand individuals such as autism, who find it hard to imagine the feelings and emotions of others. This difficulty to read the emotions can become as debilitating as any other disability “, commented one of the main authors, Simon Baron-Cohen.

    The origins of autism, which affects about one in 100 about, remains largely to be discovered.