Wednesday, October 3, 2018

How Empathetic are Your Genes?

A recent study has found evidence of a genetic link to how much empathy we have. When asked to define empathy, most people would say it’s the ability to relate to the feelings of others, but its more than just that. It also has to do with figuring out the thoughts, intentions, and motivations of others and provides subtext for communication.  The study included 46,861 participants who used 23 and me and took a diagnostic tool called the EQ, which tells you how empathetic you are. 

They found some interesting things. First, it seems that 10 % of our ability to empathize with others comes from our genes. Although women generally scored slightly higher on the EQ test than men, none of the genes believed to be involved have anything to do with sex. They are however associated with an increased risk of autism spectrum disorders. This makes sense as people on the spectrum often have trouble with empathy.

The EQ test can be taken here, if you are interested. I scored 17. After taking it, I can’t help but wonder about something. Since people are answering questions about themselves, couldn’t their perspective be skewed a bit due to lack of objectivity? Would that fact make this a less than effective tool for a scientific study?  It is interesting nonetheless. 


  1. I was very intrigued to read about this when I saw it because I feel like when we hear genetics we often think about more medical, and how to alter things in that way. Genetics is involved, much how you mentioned, in everything in our bodies including how much we feel or the empathy we have for others. I found it interesting that it does not have any correlation with gender, but there may be some association with autism spectrum disorder. The fact that you can take the test yourself, and offer the link for us to take the test is a great touch to the post. I do agree, though, that if you are answering questions about yourself you may be slightly objective to your answers.

  2. This posts is a great example of showing a different side of genetics, I thought. I had no idea that empathy could be linked/ have association with autism. I took the test out of curiosity and scored a 47, but I do agree with you that the answers could be skewed, since I can say honestly I was a bit confused at what some of the questions were asking.

  3. I feel like we, as students, tend to think that genes code for physical characteristics, so it is very interesting to see a genetic link to empathy. I do agree however that we are skewed by our own perceptions of our personality and it would be more insightful for someone else to take the test for us almost.