Thursday, September 24, 2020
News, analysis and commentary by UBC Journalism students


Popularity: it’s in your genes

Back in high school, there was Fred the nerd. Jeremy the jock. And Suzie the party animal. Oh, how you…

By Sarah Stenabaugh , in Feminizer: Western cultural values , on January 27, 2009 Tags: ,

Back in high school, there was Fred the nerd. Jeremy the jock. And Suzie the party animal.

Oh, how you wanted to be friends with Suzie. Or one-up her.

Have you ever wondered that maybe, if you had gotten your hands on that new Coach purse and those black Manolo pumps, you would’ve knocked Suzie from her popularity pedestal and reigned in as the new supreme queen?

Think again.

Manolo pumps or not, it seems Suzie was genetically programmed to be the life of the party.

An article in the Vancouver Sun yesterday said that James Fowler, a professor of political science at the University of California in San Diego, has been researching how genetics play a role in party animal behaviour.

He compared over 1,000 identical and fraternal teen twins, looking specifically at how many times someone was considered to be a friend and whether that person tended to sit at the edge of a social group or right smack in the middle.

The results are shocking-identical twins share similarities.

It seems our genes not only determine our height but they may also play a role in our social lives.

In an interview with the News Daily , one of the researchers said that there may be evolutionary reasons as to why some people tend to stick to the edges of the group while others need to be in the middle.

He argues that people in the middle of a social group are more likely to get useful information but if there was a flu outbreak in the group, they would be more likely to catch the germ from all sides. Although the people on the edges are less likely to hear the information, they are also less likely to catch the flu.

Granted the research is still preliminary, it seems to focus too much on genetics and evolution as the explanation for outgoing behaviour and neglects other factors like nurture.

For example, what if Suzie was raised on an isolated farm and was homeschooled, only to move to a big city later in life? Would her party animal genes suddenly transform her into an instant party queen?

Probably not.

Popularity genes or not, you cannot ignore the importance of environment and upbringing.

I find it hard to believe that my genes will influence whether I sit at the edge or in the middle of my social group.

I was always under the impression that the main reason why I sat at the edge of my group was because it was much easier to get to the bathroom.