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The sensitivity to oxytocin in humans is partlygenetically determined.

Oxytocin receptor polymorphism

The oxytocin receptor in humans has several alleles, which differ in their effectiveness. Individuals homozygous for the "G" allele, when compared to carriers of the "A" allele, show higher empathy, lower stress response,[1] as well as lower prevalence of autism and of poor parenting skills.[2]

Everyday identification of the gene

It has been experimentally confirmed in a University of Toronto study]].[3] that human subjects observing the way others listened to people can predict the presence of the genetic variant.

In the study 23 couples were filmed describing a moment of personal suffering while their partner listened. Subjects then watched a 20 second silent recording of the exchange and scored the listener for their "prosocial traits", such as a nurturance or empathy.

The people with GG alleles were identifies to be more prosocial than people with the AG or AA variant. The effect was marked: of the top 10 most trusted people, 6 were GG; while of the 10 least trusted people, 9 had at least one copy of A.


  1. Rodrigues SM, Saslow LR, Garcia N, John OP, Keltner D (December 2009). Oxytocin receptor genetic variation relates to empathy and stress reactivity in humans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 106 (50): 21437–41.
  2. includeonly>Angier, Natalie. "The Biology Behind the Milk of Human Kindness", The New York Times, 2009-11-24.
  3. includeonly>"Social gene spotted in 20 seconds, say researchers", BBC News, 2011-11-14.