Variations in the genes for oxytocin receptors may influence empathy -- and we can tell who's got them in 20 seconds.
In the study, by Aleksandr Kogan of UC Berkeley, 24 couples provided DNA samples and then the couples recounted to each other a time when they had suffered. The conversations were videotaped.
Then, observers wached 20-second segments of the videos and were asked to rate each person as kind, trustworthy and compassionate. The observers tended to pick the people in the couples who hada variation in the oxytocin receptor gene known as the GG genotype.
It's interesting enough that empathy might be linked to variations in our genes. And also interesting that we humans are so exquisitely sensitive to social cues that we can easily and quickly pick this out.
PsychCentral has more on the study of oxytocin and empathy.
Here's the study: