Did The Good Samaritan Have A Special Genotype?

New research shows that variations in a particular genotype can make a person more likely to participate in "prosocial" acts, such as rescuing someone from drowning.

What's the Latest Development?


A study recently published in Social Neuroscience claims that Good Samaritans -- those who are often the first to help someone in need, even if it puts them in danger -- may be born, not made. Researchers studied the genomes of just under 400 college students and asked them to complete surveys that revealed data about their anxiety levels and behavior. By looking at a particular genetic region that regulates serotonin, they found that participants with a certain variation were less anxious and more likely to help out others. A different variation of the same genotype was associated with people who were, by contrast, more socially anxious and less likely to help in ways that required personal interaction.

What's the Big Idea?

While it should be said that morals and beliefs can play a large role in how likely a person is to perform prosocial acts, the possibility of a biological component to altruism has been considered before. Study co-author and University of Missouri social psychologist Gustavo Carlo warns that those who don't have the Good Samaritan genotype aren't necessarily lacking in empathy. Rather, they may prefer to help out in less public ways, such as through anonymous financial contributions.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

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