Health

Genetic clue to working together

Image caption How much influence do genes have on cooperation?

Your ability to work together with other people could be partly due to your genes, according to researchers.

Scottish scientists quizzed 1,000 twins on their attitude to forming groups with people of different race and religious backgrounds.

Identical twins were more likely than non-identical to give similar responses suggesting a genetic influence, they report in Psychological Science.

Other factors are still likely to dominate, says another researcher.

Twin studies are a standard way of testing whether there is a genetic ingredient to a disease or, in this case, behaviour.

Identical twins, who share all the same genes, are compared with non-identical twins, who share fewer genes.

In this case, the twins were asked questions which tested their loyalty to their own social group, in particular how prepared they felt to form new groups with people from different backgrounds.

Identical twins were more likely to offer the same answer than non-identical twins, suggesting, at least to some extent, that there might be something in the extra genes they shared which was influencing their opinion.

The fact that all were brought up together as twins makes it less likely that "environmental" factors were responsible for this difference.

Professor Timothy Bates, who authored the study, said it showed that genetic inheritance was an important factor.

"The success of a coalition reflects the genetic make-up of the group members as well as cultural factors such as shared goals, beliefs and traditions.

"The research could be applied to investigate affiliation in areas such as work, sport and the military."

Professor Cary Cooper, an organisational psychologist at the University of Lancaster, said that while it was plausible that genes could indirectly influence someone's ability to work in a group, other factors were still likely to dominate.

He said: "When you look at the ability of a person to work well with others, you find that they are most likely to be moulded by the relationship with their parents, or their brothers and sisters.

"I can understand how someone might have a predisposition to introversion and extroversion, which would impact on how they behaved in a group, but it is hard to say to what extent genetics is responsible, and what extent their environment."

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