London - If you want to know whether the man in your life is the caring type, pour out your problems to him - but don’t worry about what advice he gives.
Instead, focus very carefully on how he looks when he’s listening to you.
Men who nod, smile and appear sympathetic when hearing about someone else’s worries are more likely to have the “cuddle gene” that makes them kind and considerate partners, researchers claim.
Scientists from the US and Canada recorded 23 volunteers listening as their partner described a moment of suffering.
This video was then shown - without sound - to total strangers for no more than 20 seconds and they were asked to rate how kind, caring and trustworthy the listener seemed.
Those men and women who were rated the most warm-hearted - by more than 100 people - tended to have a gene associated with high levels of oxytocin, the so-called ‘caring hormone’ which is known to be linked with sensitivity and consideration for others.
And the link between being a sympathetic listener and having the “cuddle gene” was most clear-cut in men.
The scientists said the findings could have important implications, but stressed that other genetic and non-genetic factors may also help determine an individual’s personality type.
Lead author Aleksandr Kogan of the University of Toronto said: “Our findings suggest that even slight genetic variation may have tangible impact on people’s behaviour, and that these behavioural differences are quickly noticed by others.”
All the couples underwent genetic tests before the videos were recorded to see which type of oxytocin receptor gene they had - either the G version which is linked with caring behaviour or the A version which is associated with selfishness and poor social skills. They could also have AG, a combination of the two.
Of the 10 people rated by strangers as the least caring and trusted, nine had just the A version. Of those rated as the most caring - who tended to nod and smile while listening to the story - six out of 10 had just the G version.
The link between being rated as caring and having the G version of the gene was most clear-cut in men, according to the study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Oxytocin is associated with caring behaviour such as mother-child bonding in humans and animals. It is made in a part of the brain called the hypothalamus but is picked up by receptors all over the body.
Previous research has linked the A version with risk-taking, getting stressed in social situations and autism.
The scientists said that although many studies have shown people can make accurate judgements about strangers’ social status and personality traits such as honesty just by looking at them, no-one had ever tested whether these observations were directly linked to their genetic makeup.
Co-author Sarina Saturn, of assistant professor of psychology at Oregon State University said: “It may not be that we need to fix people who exhibit less social traits, but that we recognise they are overcoming a genetically influenced trait and that they may need more understanding and encouragement. “‘There are people who just may need to be coaxed out of their shells a little.” - Daily Mail