Are you affectionate? (Even that) Depends on your genes
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Are you affectionate? (Even that) Depends on your genes

Some of us are very affectionate, and others are less likely to show affection with hugs and cuddling. But why is that? It seems our genes play a role. The issue was addressed in a study published in Communication Monographs, in which researchers from the University of Arizona demonstrated how genetics actually play a rather significant role in determining who affectionate women might be. It doesn’t seem to hold true for men, however.

To better understand how genetics and environmental factors can influence the affectionate actions of a person, researchers used 464 groups of adult twins. Half were identical (sharing 100% of their genetic material) and the other half were fraternal (with 50% of the genetic material, like regular siblings). They were between 19 and 84 years old.

“The question we asked ourselves was, we know that some people are more affectionate than others, but what explains that variation?”, says Kory Floyd, the study’s author. “The underlying presupposition is that whenever we see differences in the level of behavioral traits, such as a talkative or timid or affectionate person, that these differences have been learned and depend on environmental factors.

A study such as this, however, gives us space to talk about the possibility that a certain number of social traits and behaviors that we learn automatically might also have a genetic component.” From the analyses that followed, researchers did in fact discover that, in women, difference in affectionate behavior is affected 45% by genes and 55% by environmental factors, such as personal relationships and other life experiences.

The researchers highlight that genes does not play a role in determining the affectionate behaviours in men, which seems to be influenced solely by environmental factors. Even if we do not yet know why there is this difference between women and men, Floyd hypothesizes that, in general, males tend to express less affectionate emotions that women, as previous research has already shown.

“When we study the tendency of people to be and to receive affection, we see almost without exception that women obtain higher scores than men,” the expert explains. In fact, affectionate behavior is more advantageous for the health of a woman, in that it helps to deal with the effects of stress more than it does for men.

“This could be partly why women have a higher probability than men to inherit the tendency to act in this way rather than it simply being a result of the environment,” continues the author.

Our genes do predispose us to certain types of behaviors “but this does not mean that we will automatically keep those behaviors. And it certainly does not mean that we have no control over them,” concludes the author.

HFTHQ 20-32
Bibliographical references
Kory Floyd,Chance York & Colter D. Ray, Heritability of affectionate communication: A twins study

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