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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    • "Using a classic twin design, Alford, Funk, and Hibbing (2005) estimated that 31% of the variation in political ideology was due to genetic factors. Though the initial findings and method were sharply criticized (Beckwith and Morris 2008; Charney 2008), subsequent research identified particular genetic base pairs related to political ideology and their locations on specific chromosomes (Hatemi, Gillespie et al. 2011) and in some cases specific genes (Settle et al. 2010). For instance, some argue that variations in the DRD4 gene interacts with environmental conditions to influence political views (Settle et al. 2010). "
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    ABSTRACT: Among the more robust fields of study in American politics is presidential approval. The influence of rally events, the economy, political sophistication, and partisanship on political attitudes began with explorations into the dynamics of presidential approval. Despite this, we lack a complete understanding of the processes through which people evaluate presidential performance. This article proposes a theoretical model that explains how presidential performance evaluations are strongly influenced by one's genetic makeup. The model is tested using twin data to estimate the genetic heritability of presidential performance evaluations and finds that presidential approval has a strong genetic component.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2015 · Presidential Studies Quarterly
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    • "To date, these approaches suffer from our limited knowledge about the effects of specific candidate genes on behavioral outcomes (Conley 2009). Here, it is likely that other mechanisms are causing spurious relationships (see, i.e.; Beauchamp et al. 2011; Hatemi et al. 2011; Purcell 2013) and that results are confounded by interaction effects (between different genes or between genes and environment) that cannot be accounted for without deeper knowledge of how DNA operates. So far, results of association studies have seldom been replicated (i.e.; Beauchhamp et. "
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    ABSTRACT: This paper discusses why and how the consideration of inter-individual genetic variation can enhance the explanatory power of sociological inquiries of status attainment and social stratification. We argue that accounting for genetic variation may help to address longstanding and in some cases overlooked causality problems in explaining the emergence of social inequalities—problems which may interfere with both implicit and explicit interpretations of a society as “open” or “closed,” as meritocratic or non-meritocratic. We discuss the basic methodological tenets of genetically informative research (Sect. 2) and provide empirical examples and theoretical conceptualizations on how genetic variation contributes to status attainment (Sect. 3). This is followed by a discussion of gene-environment interplay in relation to more abstract ideas about social mechanisms that generate inequality, touching on normative implications of these ideas as well as considerations from a social justice perspective (Sect. 4). Finally, we briefly review the potential benefits as well as pitfalls of incorporating genetic influences into sociological explanations of status attainment. As we will argue, understanding how social influences impinge on the individual and how genes influence our lives requires sophisticated research designs based on sound sociological theory and methodology (Sect. 5).
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2015 · KZfSS Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie
    • "(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.
    No preview · Article · May 2014 · American Journal of Political Science
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