Birds of a feather? Your genes help you select friends

Vices attract while virtues repel people, according to a new study, which has found that genetic make-up plays a part in who one chooses as friends.

Researchers have found that people partly choose their friends by their genes especially those that have a big impact on their behaviour sometimes it can be a case of "opposites attract'' while sometimes "birds of a feather flock together". To research the conclusion, a team, led by James Fowler at University of California, used data from two large health studies to search for genetic links to friendship.

The researchers identified genetic markers, or genotypes, in six specific genes and looked at how often they occurred among friends. They found two clear examples where "birds of a feather flock together" and "opposites attract". The first involved a variant of the gene DRD2 which has been associated with alcoholism. People who carried the DRD2 genotype tended to befriend others with the same marker. Those who lacked the marker were also more likely to be friends with one another.

A less obvious opposite association was seen between people with a version of the gene CYP2A6linked to having an "open" personality. In this case, people with the genetic marker gravitated towards individuals who did not have it.

The findings, published in the 'Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences' journal, remained significant after taking account of people's tendency to form "local" friendships within the same geographical area.

"An important implication of these results is that genetic structure in human populations may result not only from the formation of reproductive unions, but also from the formation of friendship unions within• a population," said the researchers in a statement on Tuesday.

Human evolution may to some extent have been shaped by interactions between genes and friendship choices." The human evolutionary environment is not limited to the physical and biological environment, but also includes the social environment, which may itself be an evolutionary force," they Said.

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