An interesting study published, by Elaine Fox and colleagues at the University of Essex, has provided tantalizing evidence that optimists literally do see the world differently than those with a more pessimistic or neutral disposition.
Evidence has accumulated over the years that suggests a link between variations in the serotonin transporter gene and a positive or negative affect, but how does this link to perception?
The current study was based on 111 healthy volunteers. The subjects were asked to quickly score positive, negative or neutral visual cues (“dot probe paradigm“).
The study participants were genotyped to determine their serotonin receptor promoter gene (5-HTTLPR) status. There are three possible genotypes for 5-HTTLPR, i.e. “short-short,” “short-long” or “long-long.”
Interestingly, the subjects with a long-long genotype had a markedly different response to the visual stimuli than the others. The long-long group had a significantly stronger vigilance for positive images and a significant avoidance of negative images. The other subjects had no significant bias either way.
With interesting applications here for diagnosis, therapy models and possibly even pharmaceuticals, the authors concluded that “the absence of this protective bias in short-allele carriers is likely to be linked with the heightened susceptibility to mood disorders such as depression and anxiety that has been reported in this group.”
Therefore, if you steadfastly refuse to entertain Ingmar Bergman and David Lynch movies it’s likely in your genes!