How do you typically respond to a negative situation? How would you respond to these questions… “With time, I am understanding of myself for mistakes I’ve made.”, “It's tough for me to accept negative situations that aren’t anybody’s fault.” and “If others mistreat me, I continue to think badly of them.” These statements are part of the questionnaire used to measure how forgiving you tend to be of yourself. Forgiveness has been considered to be one of the positive psychological traits that largely contribute to well-being or happiness.
The experience of well-being is incredibly variable between individuals. Twin studies established that many individual differences in well-being can be attributed to genetic factors. Previous studies have demonstrated the role of catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) Val158Met in response to positive and negative emotional stimuli, a fundamental process involved in well-being. It has been reported that dispositional gratitude predicts subjective well-being ratings, and gratitude training promotes well-being. Similarly, increases in forgiveness predict increases in well-being, and forgiveness intervention improves well-being. Considering the causal link between forgiveness, well-being, and the knowledge that genetic factors affect behavioral phenotypes through psychological traits, researchers hypothesized that COMT Val158Met might affect well-being through dispositional forgiveness.
Researchers explored to what extent the catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) Val158Met polymorphism (rs4680) shows well-being and forgiveness among different individuals. In this study, Heartland Forgiveness Scale (HFS) was employed to assess dispositional forgiveness. HFS is widely used and considered a good psychological measurement, consisting of an 18-item scale assessing how forgiving the respondent tends to be of oneself, other people, and negative situations that are beyond anyone’s control. Participants rated on a 7-point Likert scale (1 = almost /always false of me, 7 = almost/always true of me) to indicate how often they typically respond to the type of negative situation. As for well-being, three instruments, the Satisfaction With Life Scale (SWLS), Scale of Positive and Negative Experience (SPANE), and Flourishing Scale (FS) was used to measure cognitive, affective, and psychological aspects of well-being, respectively. Results showed that individuals with a smaller number of the Met alleles (A alleles), which is associated with higher activity of COMT, reported greater well-being, less depressive symptoms, and greater tendencies in forgiveness.
Like all candidate gene association studies, the sample size of this study was relatively small, particularly for the male group. As women generally report lower well-being than men, the researchers examined whether the observed genotype effects depended on gender but found a non-significant gene x gender interaction. Despite the limitations, this study demonstrates the contribution of the COMT Val158Met polymorphism to individual differences in well-being and suggests a potential psychobiological pathway for other neural systems to influence happiness. Read more about the study here:
Are you interested in learning more about your genetic tendency for forgiveness? You can log in to your Genomelink YOUR TRAITS to explore this new genetic trait.