Skip to main content
×
Home

The “chicken-and-egg” development of political opinions: The roles of genes, social status, ideology, and information

  • Peter Beattie (a1)
Abstract

Twin studies have revealed political ideology to be partially heritable. Neurological research has shown that ideological differences are reflected in brain structure and response, suggesting a direct genotype-phenotype link. Social and informational environments, however, also demonstrably affect brain structure and response. This leads to a “chicken-and-egg” question: do genes produce brains with ideological predispositions, causing the preferential absorption of consonant information and thereby forming an ideology, or do social and informational environments do most of the heavy lifting, with genetic evidence the spurious artifact of outdated methodology? Or are both inextricably intertwined contributors? This article investigates the relative contributions of genetic and environmental factors to ideological development using a role-play experiment investigating the development of opinions on a novel political issue. The results support the view that the process is bidirectional, suggesting that, like most traits, political ideology is produced by the complex interplay of genetic and (social/informational) environmental influences.

Copyright
Corresponding author
Correspondence: Peter Beattie, Department of Political Science, University of California, Irvine. Email: pbeattie@uci.edu
References
Hide All
1 Tuschman Avi, Our Political Nature: The Evolutionary Origins of What Divides Us (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2013).
2 Jost John T., Federico Christopher M., and Napier Jaime L., “Political ideology: its structure, functions, and elective affinities,” Annual Review of Psychology , 2009, 60: 307337, at p. 310.
3 Hibbing John R., Smith Kevin B., and Alford John R., “Differences in negativity bias underlie variations in political ideology,” Behavioral and Brain Sciences , 2014, 37: 297350.
4 Schreiber Darren, Fonzo Greg, Simmons Alan N., Dawes Christopher T., Flagan Taru, Fowler James H., and Paulus Martin P., “Red brain, blue brain: evaluative processes differ in Democrats and Republicans,” PLOS ONE , 2013, 8(2): e52970.
5 Jost John T., Noorbaloochi Sharareh, and Van Bavel Jay J., “The ‘chicken-and-egg’ problem in political neuroscience,” Behavioral and Brain Sciences , 2014, 37(3): 317318, at p. 317.
6 Charney Evan, “Behavior genetics and postgenomics,” Behavioral and Brain Sciences , 2012, 35(5): 331358.
7 Alford John R., Funk Carolyn L., and Hibbing John R., “Are political orientations genetically transmitted? American Political Science Review , 2005, 99(2): 153167.
8 Funk Carolyn L., “Genetic foundations of political behavior,” in The Oxford Handbook of Political Psychology, Huddy Leonie, Sears David O., and Levy Jack S., eds. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), pp. 237261.
9 Christopher Dawes, Cesarini David, Fowler James H., Johannesson Magnus, Magnusson Patrik K. E., and Oskarsson Sven, “The relationship between genes, psychological traits, and political participation,” American Journal of Political Science , 2014, 58(4): 888903.
10 Hatemi Peter K., Hibbing John R., Medland Sarah E., Keller Matthew C., Alford John R., Smith Kevin B., Martin Nicholas G., and Eaves Lindon J., “Not by twins alone: using the extended family design to investigate genetic influence on political beliefs,” American Journal of Political Science , 2010, 54(3): 798814.
11 Kandler Christian, Bleidorn Wiebke, and Riemann Rainer, “Left or right? Sources of political orientation: the roles of genetic factors, cultural transmission, assortative mating, and personality,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology , 2012, 102(3): 633645.
12 Eaves Lindon, Martin Nicholas, Heath Andrew, Schieken Richard, Meyer Joanne, Silberg Judy, Neale Michael, and Corey Linda, “Age changes in the causes of individual differences in conservatism,” Behavior Genetics , 1997, 27(2): 121124.
13 Hatemi Peter K., Funk Carolyn L., Medland Sarah E., Maes Hermine M., Silberg Judy L., Martin Nicholas G., and Eaves Lindon J., “Genetic and environmental transmission of political attitudes over a life time,” Journal of Politics , 2009, 71(3): 11411156.
14 Schwabe Inga, Jonker Wilfried, and Berg Stéphanie M., “Genes, culture and conservatism — a psychometric-genetic approach,” Behavior Genetics , 2016, 46(4): 516528.
15 Hatemi Peter K., Medland Sarah E., Klemmensen Robert, Oskarsson Sven, Littvay Levente, Dawes Christopher T., and Verhulst Brad et al. , “Genetic influences on political ideologies: twin analyses of 19 measures of political ideologies from five democracies and genome-wide findings from three populations,” Behavior Genetics , 2014, 44(3): 282294.
16 Hatemi et al. , 2014, p. 291.
17 Smith Kevin, Alford John R., Hatemi Peter K., Eaves Lindon J., Funk Carolyn, and Hibbing John R., “Biology, ideology, and epistemology: how do we know political attitudes are inherited and why should we care? American Journal of Political Science , 2012, 56(1): 1733.
18 Hatemi Peter K., Eaves Lindon, and McDermott Rose, “It’s the end of ideology as we know it,” Journal of Theoretical Politics , 2012, 24(3): 345369.
19 Hatemi Peter K. and Verhulst Brad, “Political attitudes develop independently of personality traits,” PLOS ONE , 2015, 10(3): e0118106.
20 Ksiazkiewicz Aleksander, Ludeke Steven, and Krueger Robert, “The role of cognitive style in the link between genes and political ideology,” Political Psychology , 2016, 37(6): 761776.
21 Onraet Emma, Van Hiel Alain, Dhont Kristof, Hodson Gordon, Schittekatte Mark, and De Pauw Sarah, “The association of cognitive ability with right-wing ideological attitudes and prejudice: a meta-analytic review,” European Journal of Personality , 2015, 29(6): 599621.
22 Oskarsson Sven, Cesarini David, Dawes Christopher T., Fowler James H., Johannesson Magnus, Magnusson Patrik K. E., and Teorell Jan, “Linking genes and political orientations: testing the cognitive ability as mediator hypothesis,” Political Psychology , 2015, 36(6): 649665.
23 Hatemi Peter K., Gillespie Nathan A., Eaves Lindon J., Maher Brion S., Webb Bradley T., Heath Andrew C., and Medland Sarah E. et al. , “A genome-wide analysis of liberal and conservative political attitudes,” Journal of Politics , 2011, 73(1): 271285.
24 Reuter Martin, Frenzel Clemens, Walter Nora T., Markett Sebastian, and Montag Christian, “Investigating the genetic basis of altruism: the role of the COMT Val158Met polymorphism,” Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience , 2011, 6(5): 662668.
25 Settle Jaime E., Dawes Christopher T., Christakis Nicholas A., and Fowler James H., “Friendships moderate an association between a dopamine gene variant and political ideology,” Journal of Politics , 2010, 72(4): 11891198.
26 Charney Evan and English William, “Candidate genes and political behavior,” American Political Science Review , 2012, 106(1): 134.
27 Charney Evan and English William, “Genopolitics and the science of genetics,” American Political Science Review , 2013, 107(2): 382395.
28 Benjamin Daniel J., Cesarini David, van der Loos Matthijs J. H. M., Dawes Christopher T., Koellinger Philipp D., Magnusson Patrik K. E., and Chabris Christopher F. et al. , “The genetic architecture of economic and political preferences,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , 2012, 109(21): 80268031.
29 Davis Mark H., Luce Carol, and Kraus Stephen J., “The heritability of characteristics associated with dispositional empathy,” Journal of Personality , 1994, 62(3): 369391.
30 Konrath Sara H., O’Brien Edward H., and Hsing Courtney, “Changes in dispositional empathy in American college students over time: a meta-analysis,” Personality and Social Psychology Review , 2011, 15(2): 180198.
31 Marks Jonathan, What It Means to Be 98% Chimpanzee: Apes, People, and their Genes (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002).
32 Beckwith Jon and Morris Corey A., “Twin studies of political behavior: untenable assumptions? Perspectives on Politics , 2008, 6(4): 785791.
33 Ojeda Christopher, “The effect of 9/11 on the heritability of political trust,” Political Psychology , 2014, 37(1): 7388.
34 Shultziner Doris, “Genes and politics: a new explanation and evaluation of twin study: results and association studies in political science,” Political Analysis , 2013, 21(3): 350367.
35 Dar-Nimrod Ilan, “Postgenomics and genetic essentialism,” Behavioral and Brain Sciences , 2012, 35(5): 362363.
36 Fox Keller Evelyn, The Mirage of a Space between Nature and Nurture (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010).
37 Charney Evan, “Humans, fruit flies, and automatons,” Behavioral and Brain Sciences , 2012, 35(5): 381410, at p. 386.
38 Horwitz Allan V., Videon Tami M., Schmitz Mark F., and Davis Diane, “Double vision: reply to Freese and Powell,” Journal of Health and Social Behavior , 2003, 44(2): 136141.
39 Joseph Jay, “The genetics of political attitudes and behavior: claims and refutations,” Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry , 2010, 12(3): 200217.
40 Cf., Littvay Levente, “Do heritability estimates of political phenotypes suffer from an equal environment assumption violation? Evidence from an empirical study,” Twin Research and Human Genetics , 2012, 15(1): 614.
41 Charney, 2012.
42 Zuk Or, Hechter Eliana, Sunyaev Shamil R., and Lander Eric S., “The mystery of missing heritability: genetic interactions create phantom heritability,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , 2012, 109(4): 11931198.
43 Crusio Wim E., “Heritability estimates in behavior genetics: Wasn’t that station passed long ago? Behavioral and Brain Sciences , 2012, 35(5): 361362.
44 Fowler James H. and Dawes Christopher T., “In defense of genopolitics,” American Political Science Review , 2013, 107(2): 362374.
45 Jost John T., Nam Hannah, Amodio David M., and Van Bavel Jay J., “Political neuroscience: the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” Political Psychology , 2014, 35(S1): 342.
46 Jost, Noorbaloochi, and Van Bavel, 2014.
47 Woollett Katherine and Maguire Eleanor A., “Acquiring ‘the knowledge’ of London’s layout drives structural brain changes,” Current Biology , 2011, 21(24): 21092114.
48 Napier Jaime L. and Jost John T., “The ‘antidemocratic personality’ revisited: a cross-national investigation of working-class authoritarianism,” Journal of Social Issues , 2008, 64(3): 595617.
49 Xu Xiaowen and Peterson Jordan B., “Differences in media preference mediate the link between personality and political orientation,” Political Psychology , 2017, 38(1): 5572.
50 Jost, Federico, and Napier, 2009.
51 Jost John T., Nosek Brian A., and Gosling Samuel D., “Ideology: its resurgence in social, personality, and political psychology,” Perspectives on Psychological Science , 2008, 3(2): 126136, at pp. 133–134.
52 De Neve Jan-Emmanuel, “Ideological change and the economics of voting behavior in the US, 1920–2008,” Electoral Studies , 2014, 34: 2738.
53 Verhulst Brad, Hatemi Peter K., and Eaves Lindon, “Disentangling the importance of psychological predispositions and social constructions in the organization of American political ideology,” Political Psychology , 2012, 33(3): 375393.
54 Hatemi, Eaves, and McDermott, 2012.
55 Althaus Scott L., “Information effects in collective preferences,” American Political Science Review , 1998, 92(3): 545558.
56 Beattie Peter, “Information: evolution, psychology, and politics,” Papers on Social Representations , 2016, 25(1): 137.
57 Friedman Jeffrey, No Exit: The Problem with Technocracy (forthcoming).
58 For a comprehensive review, see, Yardley-Matwiejczuk Krysia M., Role Play: Theory and Practice (London: Sage, 1997).
59 Berinsky Adam J., Huber Gregory A., and Lenz Gabriel S., “Evaluating online labor markets for experimental research: Amazon.com’s Mechanical Turk,” Political Analysis , 2012, 20(3): 351368.
60 Huber John D., “Values and partisanship in left-right orientations: measuring ideology,” European Journal of Political Research , 1989, 17(5): 599621.
61 Rico Guillem and Kent Jennings M., “The formation of left-right identification: pathways and correlates of parental influence,” Political Psychology , 2015, 37(2): 237252.
62 Oskarsson et al. , 2015, p. 653.
63 Funk Carolyn L., Smith Kevin B., Alford John R., Hibbing Matthew V., Eaton Nicholas R., Krueger Robert F., Eaves Lindon J., and Hibbing John R., “Genetic and environmental transmission of political orientations,” Political Psychology , 2013, 34(6): 805819.
64 Jost, Federico, and Napier, 2009.
65 Jost, Federico, and Napier, 2009.
66 Kandler Christian, Bleidorn Wiebke, and Riemann Rainer, “Left or right? Sources of political orientation: the roles of genetic factors, cultural transmission, assortative mating, and personality,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology , 2012, 102(3): 633645.
67 Jost, Federico, and Napier, 2009.
68 Hochschild Jennifer and Sen Maya, “Technology optimism or pessimism about genomic science: variation among experts and scholarly disciplines,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science , 2015, 658(1): 236252.
69 Keller, 2010.
70 Bhaskar Roy, A Realist Theory of Science (New York: Verso, 1975/2008), p. 18.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Politics and the Life Sciences
  • ISSN: 0730-9384
  • EISSN: 1471-5457
  • URL: /core/journals/politics-and-the-life-sciences
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Keywords:

Type Description Title
UNKNOWN
Supplementary Materials

Beattie supplementary material
Appendix

 Unknown (553 KB)
553 KB

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 69
Total number of PDF views: 136 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 1096 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 6th April 2017 - 21st November 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.