Women are more empathetic than men

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The findings come from the largest genetics study of empathy with 46,000 participants who were customers of 23andMe.

Empathy has two components, one cognitive and one emotional: on the one hand, the ability to recognize one's thoughts and feelings, and on the other, the ability to respond emotionally to the mental state of the other.

The analysis found genes determine about 10 percent of the result in empathy scores, women on average are more empathetic than men, and the gene variants associated with less empathy also have links to higher risks of autism, the researchers report in the journal Translational Psychiatry.

Secondly, it confirmed that women are on average more empathetic than men.

"Finding that even a fraction of why we differ in empathy is due to genetic factors helps us understand people such as those with autism who struggle to imagine another person's thoughts and feelings", said Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, of Cambridge University. Such ability is at least partly determined by genes, according to a new DNA deep dive by scientists from the University Cambridge and the DNA testing company 23andMe. Studies in the past have explored empathy and linked it to both health benefits and harmful effects. "But since only a tenth of the variation in the degree of empathy between individuals is down to genetics it is equally important to understand the non-genetic factors". "This is an important step towards understanding the role that genetics plays in empathy", said study lead Varun Warrier of the University of Cambridge.

Previous studies have shown that some people have greater empathy than others and it has also been found that people with autism disorders have a lower empathy index (especially cognitive).

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Further work is required, with larger samples and a still-deeper look into the genetic factors, added Thomas Bourgeron, another Cambridge author of the paper.

First, the team reported that a tenth of humans' degree of empathy is due to genetic factors - confirming the previous research that examined empathy in identical versus non-identical twins. Genetics don't seem to influence that difference, however, leaving the door open for other potential influences like prenatal hormones and social factors.

They also found 11 SNPs that correlated with lower empathy scores - although they were merely of "suggestive significance", and not statistical significance, they report.

Baron-Cohen also stressed that society should offer support to people with disabilities by using "novel teaching methods, workarounds, or reasonable adjustments, to promote inclusion".

This is unedited, unformatted feed from the Press Trust of India wire.