It might make sense to start trusting your intuition, as new research from the University of California, Berkeley, suggests that a person can tell in just 20 seconds whether a stranger is genetically inclined to be a trustworthy, kind person.

Before the study, the researchers took DNA samples of the two dozen couples who participated in the experiment. Video was then taken of the each partner listening to the other partner talk about certain experiences he or she had encountered. Another separate group who did not know these couples were shown 20-second video clips of the listeners. They were then asked to rate which of the listeners seemed most trustworthy, kind and compassionate based on their facial expressions and body language in the video clips.

The researchers found that listeners who had a particular variation of the oxytocin receptor gene known as the GG genotype received the highest ratings for empathy. Oxytocin is a hormone that is secreted into the bloodstream and the brain where it promotes social interaction, especially bonding and romantic love. Researchers said that participants who had AA or AG genotypes instead of GG gene variation of the oxytocin receptor were found to be less capable of putting themselves in the shoes of others and more likely to get stressed out in difficult situations.

“It’s remarkable that complete strangers could pick up on who’s trustworthy, kind or compassionate in 20 seconds when all they saw was a person sitting in a chair listening to someone talk,” said Aleksandr Kogan, lead author of the study. “People can’t see genes, so there has to be something going on that is signaling these genetic differences to the strangers. What we found is that the people who had two copies of the G version displayed more trustworthy behaviors — more head nods, more eye contact, more smiling, more open body posture. And it was these behaviors that signaled kindness to the strangers.”

Source: UC Berkley

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

Follow Counseling Today on Twitter.