You know that friend who slumps down in a cafe chair, rattling off everything wrong with their life? Before you tune them out, suppose for a moment that their genes may be to blame for their gloomy outlook.
There is new evidence from the University of British Columbia that some of us are genetically predisposed to being negative.
The gene variant in question is known as the "ADRA2b deletion variant." It has been studied in relation to the creation of emotional memories, but researchers in the latest study say it influences "real-time perception."
UBC psychology professor Dr. Rebecca Todd and her colleagues discovered that people with this gene variant seem to perceive all emotional events, but especially negative ones, more vividly than others.
"This is the first study to find that this genetic variation can significantly affect how people see and experience the world," Todd said in a statement. "The findings suggest people experience emotional aspects of the world partly through gene-coloured glasses – and that biological variations at the genetic level can play a significant role in individual differences in perception."
Two hundred participants were shown positive, negative and neutral words in rapid succession. Participants with the genetic variant were "more likely to perceive negative words than others, while both groups perceived positive words better than neutral words to an equal degree," according to a statement from UBC. The study is published in the current issue of Psychological Science.
It's too early to tell if and how this predisposition might be overcome, but other researchers have certainly been busy looking for genes credited with happiness.
A gene called 5-HTT has been found to influence how well the body's stores of serotonin, which are linked to mood, get distributed in the body. Having the gene from both parents appears to make a person twice as likely to say they are satisfied with life than those who lack the gene, according to the Telegraph.
And a positive attitude has repeatedly been found to mitigate genetic tendencies toward some diseases and early death.
But then again, as with any enduring genetic trait, there just might be an upside to all that dark thinking.
Consider a few of these examples: "These individuals may be more likely to pick out angry faces in a crowd of people," Todd said. "Outdoors, they might notice potential hazards – places you could slip, loose rocks that might fall – instead of seeing the natural beauty."
They won't slip and die, which is a good thing. And they also may steer clear of those angry types in the crowd who could be up to no good. Or am I just being negative?