Integrating Social Science and Genetics: News from the Political Front

United States Studies Centre, University of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.
Biodemography and Social Biology (Impact Factor: 1.37). 01/2011; 57(1):67-87. DOI: 10.1080/19485565.2011.568276
Source: PubMed


There has been growing interest in the use of genetic models to expand the understanding of political preferences, attitudes, and behaviors. Researchers in the social sciences have begun incorporating these models and have revealed that genetic differences account for individual differences in political beliefs, behaviors, and responses to the political environment. The first Integrating Genetics and the Social Sciences Conference, held at Boulder, Colorado in May of 2010, brought together these researchers. As a result, we jointly review the last 5 years of research in this area. In doing so, we explicate the methods, findings, and limitations of behavior genetic approaches, including twin designs, association studies, and genome-wide analyses, in their application toward exploring political preferences.

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    • "(Hatemi et al. 2009b, Littvay, Weith & Dawes 2011, Weber, Johnson & Arceneaux 2011, Arceneaux, Johnson & Maes 2012, Fazekas & Littvay 2012, Klemmensen et al. 2012, Oskarsson et al. 2012 "
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    ABSTRACT: Recent research demonstrates that a wide range of political attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors can be explained in part by genetic variation. However, these studies have not yet identified the mechanisms that generate such a relationship. Some scholars have speculated that psychological traits mediate the relationship between genes and political participation, but so far there have been no empirical tests. Here we focus on the role of three psychological traits that are believed to influence political participation: cognitive ability, personal control, and extraversion. Utilizing a unique sample of more than 2,000 Swedish twin pairs, we show that a common genetic factor can explain most of the relationship between these psychological traits and acts of political participation, as well as predispositions related to participation. While our analysis is not a definitive test, our results suggest an upper bound for a proposed mediation relationship between genes, psychological traits, and political participation.
    American Journal of Political Science 05/2014; 58(4). DOI:10.1111/ajps.12100 · 2.76 Impact Factor
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    • "Leading scholars in this field relate to this point and explain that in " a univariate model, additive genetic variance will include all the genetic influence from all covariates, some part of gene-environment covariation if it exists, and some part of gene environment interaction, if it exists " (Hatemi, Dawes, et al. 2011, 74; emphases added). They also admit that this model simplifies a far more complex interaction and reality (ibid.). "
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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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    • "Several behavioral geneticists publishing in political science have also admitted that such studies have not proven useful in terms of explanatory power and replication and that " there may be no gene for a specific issue preference or ideological orientation " (Smith et al. 2012, 18). Instead, they have recently offered a genome-wide approach that seeks to identify regions on the genome which could be associated with political traits (Hatemi, Gillespie, et al. 2011). Given the very early stage of this research, the fact that it has not been replicated, and its silence about interactions with the environment, it too lacks explanatory power about political traits and behavior (see also Charney and English 2012, 11). "
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    ABSTRACT: This article offers a new explanation for the results of twin studies in political science that supposedly disclose a genetic basis for political traits. I argue that identical twins tend to be more alike than nonidentical twins because the former are more similarly affected by the same environmental conditions, but the content of those greater trait similarities is nevertheless completely malleable and determined by particular environments. The twin studies method thus can neither prove nor refute the argument for a genetic basis of political traits such as liberal and conservative preferences or voting turnout. The meaning of heritability estimates results in twin studies are discussed, as well as the definition and function of the environment in the political science twin studies. The premature attempts to associate political traits with specific genes despite countertrends in genetics are also examined. I conclude by proposing that the alternative explanation of this article may explain certain puzzles in behavioral genetics, particularly why social and political traits have higher heritability estimates than common physical and medical traits. I map the main point of disagreements with the methodology and the interpretation of its results, and delineate the main operative implications for future research.
    Political Analysis 07/2013; 21(3):350-367. DOI:10.1093/pan/mps035 · 2.19 Impact Factor
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