10 Traits You Didn’t Realize Were Genetic

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There are two different ways humans become the way we are: influence from our environment and influence from our genetics. Genetics have a much bigger influence on who we are than most people think. There are the obvious things that genetics influence like intelligence, athletic ability, and the size of your junk. Yet there are many genetic traits that are much less obvious.

10. Laziness

lazy

Some people are just extremely lazy. They’d rather binge watch Netflix than get some work done. It’s extremely common for people to question why they have this innate sense of laziness that they can’t seem to shake. Well, lazy people rejoice, it’s not all your fault. Blame it on your genetics!

Researchers discovered laziness genes when they bred two groups of rats. They bred the most active rats and the least active rats. As the generation of rats grew, the rats with the active parents ran longer and longer while the rats with the less active parents didn’t run nearly as much. The researchers accounted for many factors including physical characteristics, muscle cells, levels of mitochondria, etc. But, they found that the biggest reason for their activity and inactivity was a set of around 36 genes that accounted for their motivation to exercise.

So basically, everyone who has said there’s no excuse for being lazy has been wrong.

9. How Well You Deal With Stress

stressed out

Stress has an effect on everyone at one point or another. Whether someone is going through a divorce, a long work week, or gender reassignment surgery, we all have stressful times. The way that stress affects people is largely influenced by their genetics.

Stress effects can be seen in the hippocampus region of the brain. When someone goes through a stressful event their hippocampus either increases or decreases. The size change happens depending on the number of risk genes someone harbors. The more risk genes, the more the hippocampus will decrease in volume, which will make that person have a negative reaction to that stressful event. If there are very little risk genes, then the stressful event could have a reverse effect and actually be very positive to the person.

This predisposition to the effects of stress has a major overall affect on someone’s ability to handle critical life moments that may induce stress, which makes the odds stacked against some people who have many risk genes. Damn you, genetics!

8. Your Willingness to Travel

travel

There are many people who enjoy travel, and there just as many who despise it. People who enjoy it may have a gene called DRD4-7R, or the “wanderlust gene.

People who have the gene have higher levels of restlessness and curiosity. They enjoy exploring new places and don’t like being stationary. The gene has been traced back to people with ancestors that have a history of traveling. Human life is said to have started in Africa, thus, populations who have traveled far from Africa have a higher chance of possessing DRD4-7R. Not only do people with the gene enjoy traveling more but they’re also more willing to take risks and explore new relationships, foods, and drugs. They welcome change and adventure.

Lastly, the gene is not particularly common, as it’s found in only about 20 percent of the population. Yet if you do the math, out of 7,000,000,000 people that would mean about 1,400,000,000 people in the world possess the gene.

7. Driving Skills

baddriver

Driving seems like a simple enough task. Don’t run in to people or other cars and you’re golden. Then why are there so many accidents? Well if you’ve been reading the list up to this point, you would know it’s because of genetics.

Researchers have found a certain gene variant that makes people worse at driving. People with the variant perform more than 30 percent worse on driving tests, and 30 percent of Americans possess the gene. So, three out of every ten people on the road could potentially kill you due to their lack of driving skills. The reason people with the gene are much worse at driving is because an improper amount of BDNF, which is a protein in the brain, is given off. BDNF assists in retaining memory and is essential to the communication between brain cells. Thus, it’s much harder to get better at driving because it’s much harder to retain driving skills through practice.

If you think that we should get all the people with this gene off the road, we totally agree with you. But who knows, it could be you who has the gene, random internet reader. And you don’t want to be kicked off the road, even though it could potentially mean saving lives. You’re so selfish.

6. Susceptibility to Addiction

addiction

Addiction is one of the absolute worst things a human being can go through. Well, scientists have found a genetic influence when it comes to becoming addicted. Genes account for over 50 percent of a person’s susceptibility to drug addiction, and with drug use in America at an all-time high, addiction has become a huge problem.

Physicians would be able to treat addiction better if they understood genetics tests better, as only about five percent of physicians have confidence in their ability to understand the tests. So basically, good treatment is hard to find.

Furthermore, genetics have an influence on why someone will start using drugs. For example, with tobacco, 75 percent of a person’s tendency to start smoking is based on their genetics, while 60 percent of their likelihood to become addicted and 54 percent of their capability to quit is based on genetics. Thus, genetics account for a larger percent than environmental factors in the different characteristics of addiction.

5. Violence

violence

Violent people are the scourge of society. Well, along with the Kardashians, obviously. There’s no place for them, so we throw them in prison for their various wrongdoings (violent people, not Kardashians…though there’s still hope for the latter). As much as we want it to be completely their fault because of how relentless and annoying violent people can be, genetics is a very big thing to blame as well.

Researchers in Finland took a genetic analysis of about 900 criminals and have found that two genes are associated with making people violent. People with the genes were 13 times more likely to have a background of violence.


Still, Jari Tiihonen, who headed up the study, said it’s highly unlikely that people with these genes will start going off on killing sprees. Even if somebody possesses most of the genes, they’ll more than likely never commit a violent crime, but are just more likely to compared with the general population. Even an Italian court reduced a murderer’s sentence because it was discovered that the murderer had genes linked with violent behavior.

4. Exactly What You Should Eat

whattoeat

Forget everything you know about diets and dieting, because it’s all a lie. Well, not entirely a lie, but there is a better way to lose weight and become healthier: listen to the advice from your own personal genetics. Don’t start talking to yourself by asking your genetics what to eat. We’ve already tried, and been met with nothing but awkward silence. In retrospect, Denny’s wasn’t the best place to try this out for the first time. But if you could talk to your genetics, you’d get better advice than any ‘diet expert’ out there.

University of Toronto researchers found that personalized nutrition based on individual genetic makeup improves eating habits. When the researchers gave their test subjects advice based on their genetics, their diets had improved compared with the subjects who were given standard dietary advice. For example, the researchers found a gene linked to high blood pressure and salt intake in some subjects, who were then given advice about it. They saw much better improvement on their sodium intake compared to the subjects who were given standard advice on salt intake.

3. Music Taste

musictaste

In a study of almost 4,000 twins, scientists noted that they’re all just as creepy as we thought. Oh, and it was found that our musical taste is partially based on our genetics. For people under 50, genetic influence of music taste is about 55 percent. Thus, genes have a bigger influence on music taste compared to environmental factors before the age of 50. As people grow older though, environment has more of an influence. For people over 50, genetics only has about a 40 percent influence while environment accounts for the other 60 percent. Genes still have a big influence but with time that influence depletes.

The study also accounted for each individual genre of music and how much genes have an influence on liking a particular genre of music. For people under 50, genes had about a 56 percent influence on Jazz/blues/soul music, a 53 percent influence Pop/classical/rap/hip-hop music, a 53 percent influence on Rock/indie/heavy metal music, and genes had no influence on country/folk before the age of 50 but it had a 28 percent influence after people were above the age of 50. The genetic influence for the other genres for people over 50 were 43 percent on Pop/classical/rap/hip-hop, 42 percent on Jazz/blues/soul, and 34 percent on Rock/indie/heavy metal. Furthermore, our motivation to listen to music is less based on our genes, with genes having about a 25 percent influence.

Whew. With all of those percentages being thrown around, we half expected Han Solo to pop up and give us his feelings on being told the odds.

2. Mate Selection

attraction

There’s more to human attraction than meets the eye. When choosing a mate, it’s not just attractiveness or intelligence that influences the choice. It goes deeper than that. Specifically, something called a major histocompatibility complex (MHC). Our major histocompatibility complex comes from our genetics and has a subtle impact on who we are attracted to.

In short, we’re attracted to people with a different MHC than us. In a study of 90 married couples and 152 other random couples, it was found that the couples had very differing MHCs. If MHC genes had no influence they wouldn’t have found such differing MHCs in the study. The reason we’re attracted to people with differing genes can be found in our evolution: diversity between mates yields healthier children. Thus, we evolved to go after partners that are different from ourselves.

Also, the MHC helps stop inbreeding because we’re less attracted to people who we have similar genes to. So, genetics is the ultimate reason incest isn’t common (unless you live in Westeros). That and the fact that it’s just plain icky.

1. Phobias

phobia

It’s thought that phobias are developed through particularly bad life experiences that may cause irrational fears. But according to a study conducted at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, phobias can be passed down through generations. Experiences can be inherited from your ancestors, which also causes you to take on their phobias. And you thought that ugly sweater was the worst gift your grandmother ever gave you.

This was found by taking mice and making them fear cherry blossoms by using electric shocks when they smelled it. After they completely feared the smell of cherry blossoms, the researchers made them breed. Their offspring had an innate fear of the smell of cherry blossoms even though they hadn’t been exposed to it before.

It’s beneficial that a phobia is passed down from your ancestors because then you know what’s bad and what isn’t. In the modern world, many of the fears you inherited may be obsolete but could’ve been important years ago. For example, maybe your ancestor had a bad experience with spiders, and that’s the reason your are arachnophobic. Or if your ancestors lived in the African savanna, you could have naturally developed a fear for lions even if you’ve never encountered one before. And if you’re not afraid of lions for whatever reason, rest assured your stupidity is genetically inherited, too.

Bill is a freelance writer who would be eternally grateful if you were to follow him on Twitter.


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1 Comment

  1. It is crazy how we can pick up traits. Most of the stuff we do a re inherited traits. Some are good and some can be very bad.Thats why some traits we get from parents we can not keep.