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Genes Make Some People Cynics

Update Date: Oct 10, 2013 01:53 PM EDT

Cynics are born. Scientists found that genes predispose some people to view the world as a threatening place.

Previous studies have shown that a gene variant causes some 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," Prof. Rebecca Todd of University of British Columbia said in a news release.

"The findings suggest people experience emotional aspects of the world partly through gene-colored glasses -- and that biological variations at the genetic level can play a significant role in individual differences in perception," Todd explained.

The ADRA2b deletion variant, which influences the hormone and neurotransmitter norepinephrine, was previously found to play a role in the formation of emotional memories. The latest study reveals that ADRA2b deletion variant can also influence real-time perception.

The study involved 200 participants who were shown positive, negative and neutral words in rapid succession.

The findings revealed that participants with the ADRA2b deletion variant were significantly more likely to perceive negative words. However, positive words were perceived better than neutral words.

"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."

Researchers said the latest findings shed new light on ways in which genetics, combined with other factors like education, culture and moods, can influence individual differences in emotional perception and human subjectivity.

Researchers said the next step is to look more closely at the ADRA2b deletion variant phenomenon across ethnic groups.

Recent statistics suggest that more than half of Caucasians have the ADRA2b gene variant. However, the gene may be less prevalent in other ethnicities. A recent study found that only 10 percent of Rwandans had the ADRA2b gene variant.

The findings are published in the journal Psychological Science.

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