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Monday, 18 June, 2001, 00:21 GMT 01:21 UK
Many attitudes 'in our genes'
Genes influence everything from riding rollercoasters to reading books
By the BBC's Ania Lichtarowicz

Everything from liking rollercoasters to attitudes to the death penalty is influenced by our genes, say researchers.

A study carried out on twins has found differences in certain attitudes are partly due to genetic influences.

Although attitudes are learnt, scientists in Canada believe individual differences may arise, at least in part, because of our genetic makeup.

Top five attitudes with genetic connection
Reading books
Playing sport
Rollercoaster rides
Death penalty for murder
Liking rollercoaster rides and sweets are just two of the things that may be determined by our genes, according to research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Scientists in Canada surveyed 360 pairs of twins and looked at their attitudes to a wide range of issues - from reading to the death penalty for murder.

Death penalty

Out of the 30 attitudes studied, 26 of them appeared to be under some genetic influence.

The death penalty, abortion, playing organised sport and rollercoaster rides were the ones that appeared to be most influenced by genes.

The four found not to be subject to a genetic effect were attitudes towards separate roles for men and women, playing bingo, easy access to birth control, and being assertive.

Attitudes with no genetic connection
Separate roles for men and women
Playing bingo
Easy access to birth control
Being assertive
There appeared to be trends in the study's findings. For instance, genetically inherited attitudes were most likely to be associated with the preservation of life, equality and exercise, while those with the least influence were intellectual activities like playing chess and reading.

There is doubt, though, that genes are directly involved in how we perceive things.

Athletic ability

The authors, based at the University of Western Ontario and the University of British Columbia, believe it is much more likely that a complex relationship between genes, personality and physical appearance is involved in shaping our attitudes.

"Presumably, these characteristics predisposed individuals to form particular kinds of attitudes, thereby contributing to the genetic determination of individual differences in those attitudes," said Dr James Olson and colleagues.

He said: "For example, a person with inherited physical abilities such as good coordination and strength might be more successful at sports than less athletically inclined individuals, resulting in the more athletic person developing favourable attitudes to sport."

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