Some people see the world as a grim, dark place

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

Some people can’t help but see the world as a dark place. I wonder what she’s thinking…

We all have that friend who can be a bit of a party pooper. You know, the one looks at the world as if it’s a death trap waiting to happen. What’s their problem anyhow? Well, according to researchers from the University of British Columbia (UBC), they can’t help it, because it’s how they were born!

It turns out their perception (the way individuals view the world) is heavily influenced by a gene called ADRA2b. All this gene does is control how much the brain releases a chemical known as norepinephrine, which is usually associated with forming emotional memories. This new research, however, shows that  norepinephrine is also related to real-time perception!

For example, the scientists took 200 volunteers and flashed positive, negative, and regular words really quickly. Apparently, the participants who had a different version of the ADRA2b gene were more likely to focus on the negative words! “This is the first study to find that this genetic variation can significantly affect how people see and experience the world,” says Prof. Rebecca Todd of UBC’s Dept. of Psychology. “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.”

How does this relate to day to day activities? Well, according to Todd, if theses individuals are gazing over a large crowd, they are more likely to spot out angry faces! Or, say if they are out in the great outdoors, the individuals will tend to focus on potentially dangerous situation – such as slipping on a wet rock – than actually enjoy the beautiful scenery.

This study hopes to show one of the few ways we all really are different from one another.

Featured image courtesy of tjook on Flickr. Image of sad girl courtesy of Kelly Anthony on Flickr.