Genetic Friendships

January 21, 2011
ClinkShrink from Shrink Rap

A review of recent research into the genetics found in social networks.

The following was originally posted to Shrink Rap.

Here's an interesting article I came across about the role of genetics in friendships. Two researchers studied genetics found in social networks. They asked people in two longitudinal studies to name their friends, then they compared certain genetic markers. They found that the DRD2 gene, which is associated with alcoholism, tends to cluster among friends. In other words, DRD2 positive people tend to be friends with other DRD2 people. Conversely, the CYP2A6 gene carriers tended to make friends with CYP2A6 negative people. This gene is associated with people who have open personality styles. In other words, a tendency to seek out variety and new ideas.

I'm not sure what to make of all this except to say I think it's interesting that there may be a biologically driven reason why Dinah and I are friends. In many ways we're the exact opposite. Dinah is a whirling dervish of multi-tasking in a way that I find exhausting, yet she seems to thrive on it. I'm an obsessionally detail-oriented and data-driven person who never loses her car keys (or drowns a cell phone). I enjoy living this way but have no doubt that Dinah would go mad from boredom within hours if we ever woke up and found our lives had been switched. I can guess which one of us has the CYP2A6 gene. The scientists would say that we are friends because we have complimentary genetics---traits that balance off and help one another. And I guess that's true. Our book might not ever have been finished if Dinah hadn't kept us moving and on task. And it wouldn't have been as organized and readable if I hadn't followed up with the editing. So it all works out in the end.

Now we just need to find a gene that protects against cell phone loss.