The Genetic Basis of Emotional Intelligence


Several blogs have appeared discussing new research by University of Cambridge, the Institut Pasteur, Paris Diderot University in Paris and the genetics testing startup 23andMe. The scientists administered a scientifically proven test called the Empathy Quotient to 46,861 people who have had their genes tested by 23andMe. They found a definite connection between a person’s genetics and his or her ability to empathize with others.

Do You Have Emotional Intelligence? It Could Be in Your Genes

Empathy might also be part genetic, a new study concludes

According to the researchers we owe a tenth of our empathy to genetic factors.  They also found women are more empathetic than men. However, this difference isn’t genetic — instead, this difference can be explained either by biological differences (such as prenatal hormone influences) or non-biological factors (such as socialization),

Empathy itself consists of two separate abilities. Cognitive empathy is the ability to recognize another person’s emotions (Sheldon in The Big Bang Theory has low cognitive empathy). Affective empathy is the ability and desire to respond to another person’s emotions with an appropriate emotion of your own. The Empathy Quotient test measures both components of empathy.

People such as those with autism who struggle to imagine another person’s thoughts and feelings also have low cognitive empathy.  However establishing the actual genetic links is difficult.  According to the researchers: “First, we have identified only a fraction of the genes associated with autism. Second, no two autistic people are alike. Third, within the spectrum autistic people have different strengths and difficulties. Finally, those with a clinical diagnosis blend seamlessly into those in the population who don’t have a diagnosis but simply have a lot of autistic traits. We all have some autistic traits – this spectrum runs right through the population on a bell curve.”

I found the last statement particularly comforting as I have been arguing this for years, not only with regard to Autism but also the other six mental illnesses that make up the 7MTF/Humm.

I also believe you can dramatically life your cognitive empathy using TOPDOG.  This short video How to read someone’s personality is under 1 minute with Chris Golis tells you how.

If you’re curious about your own empathy, researchers at the Autism Research Center (which is also where this team works) have developed several tests related to emotional intelligence and empathy, as well as tests related to autism. You can try them out for free here.

The blog first appeared on LinkedIn The Genetic Basis of Emotional Intelligence


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Chris Golis - Author


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Your presentation on 'Lifting your Level of Emotional Intelligence" to 10 CEOs scored an average 8.9 out of 10 for the topic and 8.5 for the presentation which is great. A couple of the attendees gave you a 10 out of 10, and the comments were:

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