The Washington Post:
Some people just see the world more darkly than others.
A group of scientists says that what people observe in everyday life may depend on their genetic blueprint. A particular gene, known to play a part in emotional memories, could also influence where people tend to focus their eyes and attention.
“People think there’s a world, and our brain just tells us about it,” said study author and Cornell University psychologist Adam Anderson. “What our brain tells us is filtered, and emotions really have a powerful influence on how we see the world.”
Subjects who had a specific form of a gene in which certain amino acids are missing, found in about half of Caucasians, had a heightened awareness of negative stimuli. For instance, these people might look down a busy city street and catch the shady character hanging out by the ATM rather than the jubilant children playing in the park. Or during a nature hike, they would focus on the slippery rocks instead of the breathtaking scenery.
Individuals with the missing amino acids in the ADRA2B gene have more norepinephrine in their brains, and as a result, “experience the flash of the flashbulb memory more intensely,” said lead author and University of British Columbia psychologist Rebecca M. Todd.
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