Gloomy Outlook May Be Genetic, Study Suggests
Researchers found that a specific gene variant can cause people to perceive emotional events -- especially negative ones -- more vividly than others. Previous research showed that this same gene variant plays a role in the formation of emotional memories.
In this study, 200 volunteers were shown positive, negative and neutral words in rapid succession. Those with the ADRA2b gene variant were more likely to identify negative words than others, according to the study, which was published recently in the journal Psychological Science.
"These individuals may be more likely to pick out angry faces in a crowd of people," Professor Rebecca Todd, from the University of British Columbia's department of psychology, said in a university news release. "Outdoors, they might notice potential hazards -- places you could slip, loose rocks that might fall -- instead of seeing the natural beauty."
"[These 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," she said.
The results offer new insight into how genetics -- combined with other factors such as education, culture and mood -- can affect how people see the world around them, the researchers said.
They plan further research focusing on different ethnic groups. It's believed that more than half of whites have the ADRA2b gene variant, while it is much less common in other ethnic groups. For example, a recent study found that only 10 percent of Rwandans had the gene variant, the researchers said.
The American Academy of Family Physicians explains how emotions affect your health.