Your friends might seem like an essentially random bunch, based on shared interests and emotional compatibility. But there might be something genetic going on - and it's related to how much you drink.
That's the suggestion put forward by three researchers from UC San Diego. Their work focused on six genes in a group of 5,000 people.
The first gene that shows a correlation is DRD2, which also influences drinking behavior. Now, there are obviously some non-biological explanations for why that relationship might exist. After all, people who possess the gene are more likely to be social drinkers, which in turn means they're more likely to meet similar people at bars or parties. But the strength of the connection does seem to suggest there's a biological component to this as well, as people with the DRD2 gene consistently flocked together.
The final gene of the six also showed a relationship, although it was a negative one, meaning that we're attracted to people who display the opposite of some of our traits. What's intriguing about these results is they actually seem to have found a genetic basis for relationship clichés like "opposites attract." Indeed, what this study is basically talking about is chemistry, the notion that some people just seem to naturally click together better than others.
Geneticist Dr. Shawn McCandless doesn't exactly undersell what he sees as the real importance of this study:
"This would in some ways change how we think about, both in a philosophical as well as a mathematical level, how evolution might work."
The big changes that McCandless is talking about are the biology and genetics of social chemistry, which wasn't even really a recognized science until about ten years ago. Before that, geneticists focused their research almost entirely on individual behavior, but now they also consider how genetics can actually affect social interactions.
Of course, this study still doesn't mean you need to start requiring potential friends provide a DNA sample. As researcher Josh Klapow explains, genetics is just one factor of many underpinning social interactions:
"The study suggests that humans are a complex interplay of genetics and environment. Our genetic make-up steers us in one direction while our environment then determines if we 'veer away' from that path. It is not nature vs. nurture — it is nature and nurture."
This field is still very much in its infancy, and this research is merely the start of a conversation, not the end of one. There are still plenty of genes left to examine and connections to explore. As McCandless puts it:
"There's still much work that would need to happen before we're ready to say that we know the specific gene that makes you really good at talking to people at cocktail parties."
[ via ABC News]