So I was pretty grouchy the other day on account of I was trying to clean off my desk. More to the point, I was trying to clean my office so that I could find my desk. Things seem to get a little cluttery down in my mancave that I alternately call my “office,” “music room” or “dungeon from hell,” depending.
So it was one of those dungeon days and I’m grouchy in a “who piddled in your cornflakes” kind of grouchy and once again the universe connected the dots by completely ignoring me. Just kidding, I was purging through some of the towering disheveled piles of papers, clippings, printouts, dirty dishes, unchecked lottery tickets and several deceased rodents whilst noticing that my coffee was half empty and I desperately wanted some more, preferably sweetened with at least eight ounces of Bailey’s, when the universe made me gaze upon a headline on one of the clippings I had clipped from some magazine and filed away somewhere on my desk to be completely forgotten. It read: Glass Always Half Empty? Blame It On Your Genes.
“So that’s why my coffee cup is half empty!” I thought to myself, and decided to go upstairs and get some more coffee and schedule my office cleanup for another time. Possibly sometime in 2016.
So, seeing that we were all out of Bailey’s and it was still another five or six hours from Beer O’clock, I poured some normal decaf and read the clipping. (In the column writing business, this is called work.)
It seems a study from University of British Columbia found that, and I quote: “Some people are just born grouchy. Blame it on the ADRA2b deletion gene variant.” Of course, I thought right out loud, smacking my own forehead with the palm of my hand — it’s that old ADRA2b deletion gene variant again! I should have known, right?
According to the lead researcher Prof. Rebecca Todd of the UBC Psychology Department, the ADRA2b deletion gene variant is some sort of variant of something called a gene, which is presumably floating around in everyone’s body being a variant. So therefore, scientifically, it’s obviously called ADRA2b because that’s its name. Now that bit of complex science is cleared up, let’s get to the important bit.
The long and the short of it is, in scientific terms, this is a real bummer of a gene. A Bummer Gene if you like. The people who have this fancy Bummer Gene, and the study posits that about half of us harbour it, look at the world with, basically, a bad attitude.
The good news? It’s not our fault!
This Bummer Gene apparently causes people to look at the world “darkly,” says Todd, and we unfortunates are “genetically predisposed to perceive emotional events — especially negative ones — more vividly than others,” She goes on, by way of further explanation to say: “So you might say, ‘Oh, look at that waterfall and the amazing view, and we can look over the edge of this cliff here …’ and somebody who is a deletion variant carrier may look at the same scene and see dangerous rocks that might fall, or places snakes may lurk, or bears.”
My immediate response was: “Of course there are bears and snakes lurking! And also, waterfall? What waterfall? Amazing view? We’re on the edge of a FREAKING CLIFF!”
So it seems there’s a possibility that I might conceivably be a genetically predisposed deletion variant carrier. And some people thought I was occasionally just a grumpy grouchypants for no reason. So there all you Sunshiney Susans — there’s a scientifically verified reason some of us are a bunch of Negative Nancies! So quit smiling at me, OK!
Sorry, got carried away with my Bummer Gene variant there for second.
Or did I? Turns out, this study at UBC was conducted with 200 participants with and without the gene variant.
Two hundred participants? In the city the size of Vancouver, they couldn’t find more than 200 victims to study? And isn’t that an awfully small sample on which to base an important scientific study? And when am I going to stop using questions and question marks to make a point?
Further, these 200 participants were all shown a series of words in rapid succession. Researchers found that “all the participants tended to perceive the positive words better than the neutral words, but individuals with the gene variant tended to perceive the negative words better than those without the gene variant.”
That’s it. That’s the study.
And from this “evidence,” Todd concludes that, and I quote: “These individuals may be more likely to pick out angry faces in a crowd of people.” Sorry professor, but let me tell you, pretty much absolutely everybody will be likely to pick out angry faces in a crowd, no problem. Especially these days.
So for crying out loud, before people start being grouchy for no reason and blame it on your study, and people go around seeing the garbage instead the flowers, and all those Grumpy Gus people insist on seeing the glass as half empty, try doing a study that makes at least one iota of sense, OK?
Um … I apologize. I got a little grouchy there again, and I see my coffee cup is half empty. I personally blame it on the Bummer Gene.
Harley Hay is a local freelance writer, award-winning author, filmmaker and musician. His column appears on Saturdays in the Advocate. His books can be found at Chapters, Coles and Sunworks in Red Deer.