Altruism and genetics

Acta Genet Med Gemellol (Roma). 1984;33(2):265-71. doi: 10.1017/s0001566000007315.


Three questionnaires measuring altruistic tendencies were completed by 573 adult twin pairs from the University of London Institute of Psychiatry Volunteer Twin Register. The questionnaires consisted of a 20-item Self-Report Altruism Scale, a 33-item Empathy Scale, and a 16-item Nurturance Scale, all of which had previously been shown to have construct validity. For the three scales, the intra-class correlations for the 296 MZ pairs were 0.53, 0.54, and 0.49, and for the 179 same-sex DZ pairs were 0.25, 020, and 0.14, giving rough estimates of broad heritability of 56%, 68%, and 72%, respectively. Maximum-likelihood model-fitting revealed about 50% of the variance on each scale to be associated with genetic effects, virtually 0% to be due to the twins' common environment, and the remaining 50% to be due to each twins' specific environment and/or error associated with the test.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Altruism*
  • Environment
  • Female
  • Genetics, Behavioral
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pregnancy
  • Twins / psychology*
  • Twins, Dizygotic / psychology
  • Twins, Monozygotic / psychology