20-Second Trust Factor

The Importance of First Impressions




First impressions not only count—they are surprisingly accurate, at least when it comes to detecting whether a stranger is “made” to be compassionate, trustworthy or kind. New research by the University of California, Berkeley suggests that it can take just 20 seconds to recognize who is genetically so inclined.

Two dozen couples participated in the study and provided DNA samples. Researchers documented them as they talked about times when they had suffered. A separate group of observers that did not know the couples were shown 20-second video segments of only the listeners and asked to rate which participants seemed most compassionate, based on facial expressions and body language.

The listeners that received the highest ratings for empathy turned out to possess a particular variation of the oxytocin receptor gene known as the GG genotype. Dubbed the “love hormone”, oxytocin is naturally secreted into the bloodstream and the brain, where it promotes social interaction, bonding and romantic love.

“People can’t see genes, so there has to be something going on that is signaling these genetic differences to the strangers,” says Aleksandr Kogan, lead author of the study. “What we found is that the people that had two copies of the G version displayed more trustworthy behaviors: more head nods, eye contact, smiling and open body posture. These behaviors signaled kindness to the strangers.”

Edit ModuleShow Tags

More from Natural Awakenings

Women Power

Enterprising senior women in France have created a nurturing 25-unit independent-living apartment building just blocks away from shops, a theater and the metro.

Happy Couples Sleep Closer Together

A UK study shows that the closer a couple sleeps, the happier their relationship tends to be.

Satisfaction with Friendship is Hard to Come By

Fewer than a quarter of Americans report being satisfied with their friendships, with GenXers and Boomers the least happy.

Marriage is Good for the Heart

Married people are less likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease than divorced, widowed and single people.

Unconditional Love Hastens Healing

In a 10-year study, HIV patients that gave and received compassionate love had more immune-boosting white cells and fewer markers of the disease.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags