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Below is the abstract from the paper to help foster discussion. N.B., the full paper is open access and available to read here: [Genome-wide analyses of self-reported empathy: correlations with autism, schizophrenia, and anorexia nervosa](https://www.nature.com/articles/s41398-017-0082-6
Abstract: Empathy is the ability to recognize and respond to the emotional states of other individuals. It is an important psychological process that facilitates navigating social interactions and maintaining relationships, which are important for well-being. Several psychological studies have identified difficulties in both self-report and performance-based measures of empathy in a range of psychiatric conditions. To date, no study has systematically investigated the genetic architecture of empathy using genome-wide association studies (GWAS). Here we report the results of the largest GWAS of empathy to date using a well-validated self-report measure of empathy, the Empathy Quotient (EQ), in 46,861 research participants from 23andMe, Inc. We identify 11 suggestive loci (P < 1 × 10−6), though none were significant at P < 2.5 × 10−8 after correcting for multiple testing. The most significant SNP was identified in the non-stratified analysis (rs4882760; P = 4.29 × 10−8), and is an intronic SNP in TMEM132C. The EQ had a modest but significant narrow-sense heritability (0.11 ± 0.014; P = 1.7 × 10−14). As predicted, based on earlier work, we confirmed a significant female advantage on the EQ (P < 2 × 10−16, Cohen’s d = 0.65). We identified similar SNP heritability and high genetic correlation between the sexes. Also, as predicted, we identified a significant negative genetic correlation between autism and the EQ (rg = −0.27 ± 0.07, P = 1.63 × 10−4). We also identified a significant positive genetic correlation between the EQ and risk for schizophrenia (rg = 0.19 ± 0.04; P = 1.36 × 10−5), risk for anorexia nervosa (rg = 0.32 ± 0.09; P = 6 × 10−4), and extraversion (rg = 0.45 ± 0.08; 5.7 × 10−8). This is the first GWAS of self-reported empathy. The results suggest that the genetic variations associated with empathy also play a role in psychiatric conditions and psychological traits.
Couldnt this also mean that people with certain genetic traits are more likely to be nurtured to be more/less empathetic? Socialized based on their appearance on how society expects them to act.
> The empathy quotient is a self-reported survey, which can skew results.
> And although they found genetic differences between people who were more and less empathetic, they were not able to find specific "empathy genes" that were responsible for this.
> "We know that basically **anything** you can measure in humans has a genetic component, and this establishes that empathy does have some heritable component."
> "But as the authors say, it's the first analysis of its kind and could benefit from a larger study," he added.
Seems like they were trying extra hard to establish a connection where there may be none.
Hazy memory from taking developmental psyc course long time ago, the lesson was "Nature and Nurture, it's always a bit of both". Although some aspects of human maybe dominantly one of the two, but never exclusively just that.
Then what isn't partially inherited and is solely acquired behaviour? Is there any examples of it?
The "empathy" measured by the Empathy Questionnaire is different from the layman's idea of empathy. It specifically refers to the ability to intuit what others are thinking and feeling based on non-verbal cues, social conventions, etc (sometimes called "cognitive empathy"). It is NOT the same as "emotional empathy" -- being affected by someone else's pain or other emotions, caring about others, compassion. The questionnaire is by Simon Baron-Cohen, a major autism researcher (and Sacha's cousin), based on his [empathizing-systemizing theory](https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empathizing
–systemizing_theory) of high-functioning autism. I think his use of the label "empathy" is unfortunate, and has fed into the false idea that autistic people "lack empathy." [In fact research has shown that while they struggle with "cognitive empathy" (working out what someone is feeling without explicit information) they are no less "emotionally empathic" (caring about other people and their feelings) than neurotypicals.]
Are there any studies relating happiness with empathy? If I am a parent, should I try to educate empathy, if my main concern is my child's happiness?
I know this is a very brutal question, (and my empathy compels me to educate empathy like a damn virus!) but I'd really like a good answer to this.
The theory of Emotional Intelligence is far from being widely accepted in the scientific community. Why isn't this looked through the Big Five Agreeableness trait?