This Was in Nature News, So It Has Got to be True!

file this with, “I should have known but refuse to believe”

Researchers from the University of Jerusalem claim to have found a gene associated with dictatorial behaviour – ya know, the sort of playground bullying that leads to millions of dead people.

Now – you say dictatorial, I say potatoes, b/c this study seems ridiculous. Dictatorial behavior, as the researchers define it, is the willingness to share wealth:

The study might help to explain the money-grabbing tendencies of those with a Machiavellian streak — from national dictators down to ‘little Hitlers’ found in workplaces the world over.


The researchers don’t know the mechanism by which the gene influences behaviour. It may mean that for some, the old adage that “it is better to give than to receive” simply isn’t true, says team leader Richard Ebstein. The reward centres in those brains may derive less pleasure from altruistic acts, he suggests, perhaps causing them to behave more selfishly.

and finally,

[…]apparently ruthless dictators may be motivated not by out-and-out greed but by a simple lack of social skills, which leaves them unable to sense what’s expected of them.

That certainly fits with the image of a naïve yet arrogant dictator with no sense of the inappropriateness of his actions and attitudes. Such figures have cropped up with surprising regularity throughout history, all the way from the emperors of Rome, through to Napoleon Bonaparte, Benito Mussolini, Saddam Hussein or Robert Mugabe, now tenaciously clinging to power in the face of uncertain electoral results.

I don’t know….this seems like a bit of a stretch. Nonetheless, genetics is still considered to be p r e t t y cool.

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Dave Semeniuk spends hours locked up in his office, thinking about the role the oceans play in controlling global climate, and unique ways of studying it. He'd also like to shamelessly plug his art practice: