The findings come from the largest genetics study of empathy with 46,000 participants who were customers of 23andMe.
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.
Empathy, which plays a key role in human relationships, has two parts: First, recognizing another person's thoughts and feelings, called cognitive empathy; and second, responding with an appropriate emotion called affective empathy.
This is said to be the largest study on empathy as it relates to genetics, helping shed light on why some people may experience greater degrees of it than others.More news: Barcelona's Andre Gomes Opens Up On Mental Health Struggles
In fact, women may show greater empathy simply due to their upbringing, life experience and social differences. 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.
"This is an important step toward understanding the small but important role that genetics plays in empathy", said Varun Warrier, a Cambridge doctoral student, and leader of the team.
It could be explained by "other non-genetic biological factors", for example hormonal factors, "or non-biological factors such as socialization, which both differ according to sex". All participants had given a saliva sample for DNA analysis, while completing a relevant psychological questionnaire to assess their degree of empathy.
Their responses were used to find out which genetic variations were linked to empathy. This backs up previous research which has found women are more likely than men to copy "contagious" yawns, mirror facial expressions, and simply look at other people's faces, even as babies. But keep in mind that only a tenth of individual differences in empathy in the population are due to genetics.More news: Assam Set to Livestream First e-Budget on Google Play
'This can give rise to disability no less challenging than other kinds of disability, such as dyslexia or visual impairment.
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".
The study also confirmed that women were more empathetic than men on average, but this variation was not shown to be a result of DNA, implying that this empathy gap between the sexes is caused by social factors or non-genetic biological influences, such as prenatal hormone exposure.More news: Marcus Smart has torn tendon in thumb; out indefinitely