The Intersection of Behavioral Genetics and Political Science: Introduction to the Special Issue

Political Science, Microbiology and Biochemistry, The Pennsylvania State University, USA.
Twin Research and Human Genetics (Impact Factor: 2.3). 02/2012; 15(1):1-5. DOI: 10.1375/twin.15.1.1
Source: PubMed


The collection of papers in this special edition of Twin Research and Human Genetics represents a major land-mark at the intersection of behavioral genetics and political science. This issue is the fruit of 20 political scientists attending the Behavioral Genetics Association Methods Workshop in Boulder and a hands-on training practicum at the Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics, and includes results from the first wave of political science twin surveys.

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    • "Current issues in genetics, such as epigenetics, the epigenome, epistasis, GE interactions , problematic genomic regions, proper coverage of small variants, rare mutations and variants, redefining heritability, small effects, tissue-specific expression, trait heterogeneity, undefined genetic pathways, and unresolved functionality of genetic markers, among other concerns, gain additional complexity for the study of humans, who create their own environments and have the ability to transcend their genetic history. Properly capturing the interdependent influence of genes and environment for complex human traits can only be improved by open and honest interdisciplinary research, not a wholesale dismissal of methods or refusal to engage in the literature (for a more detailed discussion of this topic, see Hatemi and McDermott 2012a). The goal for political science, therefore, is to rise to the challenge: to carefully, thoughtfully, and progressively integrate the useful components of behavioral genetics, as well as other disciplines, into political science and revise the theories and methods that require revision. "
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    ABSTRACT: In this article, we respond to Shultziner's critique that argues that identical twins are more alike not because of genetic similarity, but because they select into more similar environments and respond to stimuli in comparable ways, and that these effects bias twin model estimates to such an extent that they are invalid. The essay further argues that the theory and methods that undergird twin models, as well as the empirical studies which rely upon them, are unaware of these potential biases. We correct this and other misunderstandings in the essay and find that gene-environment (GE) interplay is a well-articulated concept in behavior genetics and political science, operationalized as gene-environment correlation and gene-environment interaction. Both are incorporated into interpretations of the classical twin design (CTD) and estimated in numerous empirical studies through extensions of the CTD. We then conduct simulations to quantify the influence of GE interplay on estimates from the CTD. Due to the criticism's mischaracterization of the CTD and GE interplay, combined with the absence of any empirical evidence to counter what is presented in the extant literature and this article, we conclude that the critique does not enhance our understanding of the processes that drive political traits, genetic or otherwise.
    Political Analysis 07/2013; 21(3):368-389. DOI:10.1093/pan/mpt005 · 2.19 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: There is a growing interest in empirically exploring the biological underpinnings of political attitudes and behavior. Heritability studies are a primary vehicle for conducting such investigations and data sets rich in political phenotypes are becoming broadly accessible. A bottleneck exists, however, in exploiting these opportunities because they involve a statistical re-tooling for political scientists and require a conceptual shift that has substantial implications for the field’s traditional theoretical models. Methodologically, most twin studies rely on structural equation models unfamiliar to political scientists. We show this methodological bottleneck is easily navigable; it is the lesser discussed shift in theoretical assumptions poses the larger problem to integrating biological elements into the study of political attitudes and behavior. To address these issues we provide a detailed introduction to a regression-based method for analyzing genetic influence on political attitudes and behaviors that will be methodologically intuitive to political scientists with even minimum quantitative training. In doing so, we provide a platform for bridging important conceptual divides between political science and behavioral genetics.
    Political Behavior 06/2012; 35(2). DOI:10.1007/s11109-012-9192-2 · 1.63 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Political sophistication is a concept that encompasses political reasoning, the coherence of people's issue attitudes, and their knowledge of political processes. To what extent is political sophistication affected by genes and environments? Do these distinct but related measures of sophistication share a common genetic structure? We analyze survey data collected from participants in the Minnesota Twin Registry to estimate influences of genes and environments on variables used to measure political sophistication. Additive genetic factors explain 48-76% of the variation in educational attainment, political interest, and political knowledge, while dominance genetics influence 28% of the variance of ideological consistency. Multivariate analyses show that, although these measures share common genetic and unique environmental factors to a modest extent, much of the variance is explained by specific genetic and unique environmental factors. Ideological consistency appears to be mostly distinct from the other measures, as it is strongly accounted for by unique environmental influences.
    Twin Research and Human Genetics 02/2012; 15(1):34-41. DOI:10.1375/twin.15.1.34 · 2.30 Impact Factor
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