The first part is called "cognitive empathy" and the second part is called "affective empathy".
Empathy is the ability to recognize and relate to what's going on in another person's mind, but scientists still know very little about what makes some people more attuned to someone else's feelings than others.
"Our empathy is partly genetic. We saw that men score, on average, 40, and women score, on average, 50". The work was done by 23andMe, a genetics company, as well as researchers with the University of Cambridge, the CNRS, Institut Pasteur, and Paris Diderot University.
Human empathy is not only shaped by a persons upbringing and experience but also by their genes, scientists including one of Indian origin have found.
The Linkage Disequilibrium Score Regression (LDSR) was used to find genetic patterns, and to correlate any patterns with the scores from the empathy assessment. "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".
The findings also confirmed that women are, on average, more empathetic than men.
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With genetics out of the equation, it's not clear why men have less empathy than women do, Warrier said. Genetics don't seem to influence that difference, however, leaving the door open for other potential influences like prenatal hormones and social factors.
"Individually each gene plays a small role and it is hard to identify them", said Thomas Bourgeron, one of the study's authors.
Finally, the new study found that the genetic variants that tended to reduce a person's empathy were also linked to an increased risk of autism. "This is an important step towards understanding the role that genetics plays in empathy", said study lead Varun Warrier of the University of Cambridge.
"This new study demonstrates a role for genes in empathy, but we have not yet identified the specific genes that are involved", said Thomas Bourgeron, professor at Cambridge. "Our next step is to gather larger samples to replicate these findings, and to pin-point the precise biological pathways associated with individual differences in empathy". Highlighting genetic factors "helps us understand people like autistic people, who have trouble imagining the feelings and emotions of others".
This difficulty in reading emotions can become as disabling as any other disability, commented one of the leading study's authors, Simon Baron-Cohen.
This is unedited, unformatted feed from the Press Trust of India wire.