Rebel gene, popularity bad boys, rebels likeability
James Dean

Bad Boys Are Born to Be Popular, Says Study

December 23, 2008 08:54 AM
by Josh Katz
A study correlates ill-behaved boys with popularity and a “rebel” gene. But previous research suggests that popularity might cause problems later on in life.

Popularity, Likeability Are in our Genes, Study Says

Troublemakers have popularity and the genes to prove it, according to a new study published in the most recent edition of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Michigan State University behavioral geneticist S. Alexandra Burt claims that those who resist authority and break the rules are more liked by their peers. Furthermore, these popular misfits tend to carry a “rebel” gene, the Daily Telegraph writes.

Although previous work has also suggested that mischievous teens are more likable, the study is the first to pinpoint a specific gene and substantiate the claim with evidence, Burt said. The link between defiance and popularity—known as “evocative gene-environment correlation”—had been primarily based on theory prior to the recent study, Science Daily reports.

The researchers brought 100 male college students who did not know one another together in a laboratory. The students interacted and the researchers tested their DNA using saliva swabs, the Telegraph reports. When the students indicated on a questionnaire who they liked best, the troublemakers topped the list. The experiment was conducted again with 100 different college students and the results were the same.

“So the gene predisposed them to rule-breaking behavior and their rule-breaking behavior made them more popular,” Burt said, according to Science Daily.

The contrary adolescents do not exhibit violent actions, however. The study says that their behavior might involve “heavy drinking, lying, dangerous driving or using drugs,” the Telegraph writes. The scientists also plan to administer the same the experiment with female students.

The “rebel” gene is a “particular form of a serotonin gene, a chemical in the brain which has been linked to the control of emotions and mood,” according to the Telegraph.

Related Topic: The problems with popularity; virtual coolness

Popularity Has Its Drawbacks
A study that appeared in the May/June 2005 issue of the journal Child Development indicated that popularity might not be all it’s cracked up to be. According to the research, “popular adolescents were more well-adjusted than their less popular peers on many dimensions, including the quality of their relationships to their parents and their overall level of social skills,” Science Daily wrote. But “over time popular adolescents tended to show greater increases in levels of delinquency and drug use.”

Joseph P. Allen, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, said the results of the study made a lot of sense. “Popular adolescents are popular in part because they are carefully attuned to the norms of their peer group,” he said. “As these norms increasingly come to support even minor levels of deviant behavior during adolescence, popular teens may be particularly susceptible.”
Being Cool in Second Life
Studies have indicated that the personality of a person’s character in online virtual world Second Life may bleed into that player’s real life. If someone has an online persona, or avatar, that is more attractive than they are, not only might that person act more extroverted than normal when playing online, but that extroversion may carry over to real life. In one study, individuals acted more confidently and aggressively if they had just played with a tall avatar, even if they were not tall in reality.

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