Many attitudes 'in our genes'
Posted: Monday, June 18, 2001
(BBC) Everything from liking rollercoasters to attitudes to the death penalty is influenced by our genes, say researchers.
A study carried out on twins has found differences in certain attitudes are partly due to genetic influences.
Although attitudes are learnt, scientists in Canada believe individual differences may arise, at least in part, because of our genetic makeup.
Scientists in Canada surveyed 360 pairs of twins and looked at their attitudes to a wide range of issues - from reading to the death penalty for murder.
Out of the 30 attitudes studied, 26 of them appeared to be under some genetic influence.
The death penalty, abortion, playing organised sport and rollercoaster rides were the ones that appeared to be most influenced by genes.
The four found not to be subject to a genetic effect were attitudes towards separate roles for men and women, playing bingo, easy access to birth control, and being assertive.
There appeared to be trends in the study's findings. For instance, genetically inherited attitudes were most likely to be associated with the preservation of life, equality and exercise, while those with the least influence were intellectual activities like playing chess and reading.
There is doubt, though, that genes are directly involved in how we perceive things.
The authors, based at the University of Western Ontario and the University of British Columbia, believe it is much more likely that a complex relationship between genes, personality and physical appearance is involved in shaping our attitudes.
"Presumably, these characteristics predisposed individuals to form particular kinds of attitudes, thereby contributing to the genetic determination of individual differences in those attitudes," said Dr James Olson and colleagues.
He said: "For example, a person with inherited physical abilities such as good coordination and strength might be more successful at sports than less athletically inclined individuals, resulting in the more athletic person developing favourable attitudes to sport." More
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