2.8 min readBy Published On: May 3rd, 2012Categories: Features0 Comments on The Nice Gene

Written by Heather Foley

Every day when I come into work, I turn on my computer, open up the interweb and peruse the headlines on msn.com.  Recently a headline that wasn’t about Zac Ephron surprisingly caught my eye, “The Nice Person Gene, is there a genetic component to kindness.”  Now pretty much any time a study like this is in the news, I sit up and pay attention, this is the kind of thing people talk about at dinner parties, and I really hope to be invited to a dinner party some day.

Let me break it down for you, the hormones oxytocin and vasopressin have been shown to influence functions that are traditionally considered moral, such as kindness and selflessness.  Researchers from The University of New York at Buffalo and University of California want to know if there are any genes that affect the hormone receptors (are you still awake?).  So how did they get a feel for people’s niceness, scientific term ‘pro-social behavior’?  They asked them questions to gauge how the nice they are, questions about donating blood, reporting a crime, and their views on good and evil.

Hold up.  Donating blood, reporting a crime, and good versus evil?  This is where the bar is set for nice now?  Not, “Would you give up a seat on the train or let someone with only one item go ahead of you in line at the grocery store?” But, “Are you Team Harry Potter or Team He Who Shall Not Be Named?  Or would you call 911 if you saw a little old lady get mugged?”  How did this happen?  All you have to do is say you’re pro blood donation and you are scientifically declared nice?  Ahhhhh, what?  I have to admit, when I first read the article I thought “Nice gene? No way do I have one of those, nothing makes me laugh harder then when someone falls,” but as I read it became clear the standard is set way lower than that.  Ladies and gentlemen I am officially nice, so suck it.

I’m not saying I’m Mother Teresa nice, I sometimes hit the doors close button on the elevator even though I know people are rushing to jump in, I’ve taken Splenda packets from restaurants, and like Arya Stark.  I repeat the names of people I want to kill before I fall asleep, but I give blood, I’ve called 911 to report a crime, and if someone ever asked me, I am staunchly pro good, and anti evil, so I’m doing pretty well.  I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself, but if the standard of nice keeps dropping I might even be on the road to canonization, and St. Heather does have a nice ring to it.  Anyone know if the Catholic Church let you request what you’re going to be the patron saint of?  I’m thinking patron saint of chin dimples or maybe patron saint of overgrown roots?  Oh and the results of the study, is there a nice gene?  Maybe? But whether you have it or not it’s not a direct indicator of whether someone will be nice or not –  so kind of inconclusive, but research has proven I’m nice, so who cares?