To be or not to be - that question depends on our genes; says a new study on male college students. The results of the research suggest that a person's genetic make-up plays a role in his/her popularity.
S. Alexandra Burt, a behavioral geneticist at Michigan State University, found during the study that the students who had a gene associated with rule-breaking behavior were rated most popular by a group of previously unacquainted peers.
"The idea is that your genes predispose you to certain behaviors and those behaviors elicit different kinds of social reactions from others. And so what's happening is, your genes are to some extent driving your social experiences," said Burt, assistant professor of Psychology.
She agrees that this concept has been discussed earlier too, but insisted that they were all theoretical explanations.
She claimed that hers is the first study to really flesh out the process, establishing clear connections between a specific gene, particular behaviors and actual social situations.
For the study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Burt collected DNA from more than 200 male college students in two separate samples.
After interacting in a lab setting for about an hour, the students filled out a questionnaire as to whom they most liked in their group.
Burt observed that the most popular students in both samples were the ones who had a particular form of a serotonin gene, which was also associated with rule-breaking behavior.
"So the gene predisposed them to rule-breaking behavior and their rule-breaking behavior made them more popular," she said.
She revealed that she was planning to conduct a similar study with female college students and mixed-gender social groups.
She also plans to explore associations with other social behaviors and other genes in larger samples.