Human Kindness Genes Withstand Threats and Fear

Maia Szalavitz
Time

People who are hard-wired to show empathy and kindness do so even in the face of a threatening or untrustworthy world.

What makes people behave kindly? Is it the result of having been nurtured in an environment of love and kindness that makes you more likely to treat others the same way? Or perhaps personal experiences of threat and deprivation make you more attuned to the suffering of others? Or maybe it’s just a matter of genes?

As with so many human tendencies, displays of kindness are likely to be influenced by both environment and genes. People who have genes that predispose them to empathy and kindness, for example, are steadfast in their charitable behavior, regardless of their current environment, a new study finds. But people with genes that are linked to a weaker inclination toward altruism tend to reduce their charitable behavior and commitment to civic responsibilities, such as political action or jury duty, when they have heightened feelings of fear or being threatened.

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