Scientists have discovered that selflessness and civic-mindedness could be inherited traits, particularly if you are a woman.
The study adds to more evidence to the belief that it is nature, not nurture that makes people behave in the way they do. Although environmental aspects such as parental influence and schooling, still have a large effect on children.
Scientists are saying that our genetic endowment, along with the way or genes are expressed is seen as having more of an effect of who we are and what we do.
Students at the University of Edinburgh conducted an experiment in which 1,000 pairs of twins completed self assessments in order to see what they thought they were like. Some of the twins were identical and others were fraternal.
“Having identical and non-identical twins allows you to understand whether there is a genetic factor at play,” explained Gary Lewis, who was part of the study.
“Identical twins, which share 100 percent of their genes, are more similar than non-identical twins, who share only 50 percent. You can infer genetic influence because of that biological fact.”
Previous research in the area involving infants had shown that humans have an inbuilt capacity for empathy, despite the fact that the infants were too young to be fully socialised.
Lewis and his partner Timothy Bates broke their study into 3 “pro-social” areas they believed were present in adults: a sense of civic duty, job commitment and concern for the welfare for others.
Those who were shown to have the greatest impulse were generosity were identical female twins, “This suggests that genetic effects are influential with regards to pro-social behaviour,” Lewis said.
It is the difference between the identical and fraternal twins which showed that environmental factors are not fully responsible for the way we behave. The study also showed that this difference was far less pronounced for the male sets of twins.