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Genopolitics – Lessons from an emerging research paradigm

Presentation research seminar 03DEC2012

Christian Martin

on 3 November 2014

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Transcript of Genopolitics – Lessons from an emerging research paradigm

Behavioral Economics
Psychology and Neuroscience
Behavioral Genetics
Human Behavioral Endocrinology
Lessons from an emerging research paradigm
Political attitudes
Political Sophistication
Vote choice
Political violence


Political Behavior
Political Outcomes
Fowler/Schreiber 2008: Determinants of voter turnout in twin studies
Classic twin design (CTD)
Comparison of identical (monozygotic) and fraternal (dizygotic) twins
Assumption: All twins share the same environment while growing up (control), but only identical twins share the same DNA
Distinction between shared environmental, unique environmental, and genetic influences
Genome wide association studies (GWAS)
Question: What genetic properties are associated with an observed political phenotype?
Comparison of SNP (single-nucleotide polymorphisms) across individuals
"Thus, it is important to recognize that, like complex organisms in a moving social world, genes operate in an equally complex world within complex mechanisms that function in a living thinking person. In this way one can use the word ‘gene’ in much the same way as one might use ‘culture’, or ‘parenting’."
(Hatemi/Byrne/McDermott 2012: 314)
A caveat
Behavior regulation through individual genes is extremely rare
Source: Sadava et al. 2009: 295
Because it's there
Three reasons why we should care
To improve upon the explanatory power of existing models
To eliminate potential bias in existing models
How does it work?
Why now? An intellectual history of Genopolitics
The Black Box of Rational Choice
Fixed and exogenous preferences
Outcomes are the result of incentives and constraints
Actors' decision making mechanisms are assumed rather than empirically derived
Costs of genome sequencing
Decision making
Decision making
Technological advances
Costs of genome sequencing ctd.
Candidate gene studies
Focus on pre-specified (selection theoretically informed) genes rather than on whole genome
Causal modeling with evolutionary arguments
Functionalist arguments that are for once not wrong from the outset
What would be an advantageous trait given evolutionary pressures?
Example: Petersen et al. 2012 - 'The ancestral logic of politics: Upper body strength regulates men’s assertion of self-interest over economic redistribution'
In favor of redistribution if poor
Against redistribution if rich
No strong opinion on redistribution
Existing research - some examples
Alford/Funk/Hibbing, 2005: Genetic transmission of political orientation
Settle et al. 2010: Conditional effect of gene variant that determines dopamine receptiveness and friendships on political ideology.
7R variant of dopamine receptor D4 gene (DRD4)
Few friends in adolescence
No effect on political ideology
Higher association with liberal ideology
Hatemi et al. 2011: Genome-Wide Analysis of Liberal and Conservative Political Attitudes - several significant linkage peaks; identification of candidate genes
Sample of 13,000 subjects; DNA collected, sociopolitical attitude measured with a 50-item questionnaire
Sturgis et al. 2010: Genetic basis of social trust? Majority of the variance in a multi-item trust scale is accounted for by an additive genetic factor.
Fowler/Dawes 2008: Two gene variants predict voter turnout
Fowler/Dawes 2008: Two gene variants predict voter turnout
Hatemi/McDermott 2012, Review of results:
Many friends in adolescence
Alford, J.R./Funk, C.L./Hibbing, J.R., 2005, Are Political Orientations Genetically Transmitted?, American Political Science Review, 99(2), 153-167.
Fowler, J.H./Dawes, C.T., 2008, Two Genes Predict Voter Turnout, The Journal of Politics, 70 (3), 579–594.
Hatemi, P.K. et al., 2011, A Genome-Wide Analysis of Liberal and Conservative Political Attitudes, The Journal of Politics, 73(1), 1–15.
Hatemi, P.K./ McDermott, R., 2012, The Genetics of Politics: Discovery, Challenges and Progress. Trends in Genetics, 28(10), 525-533.
Petersen, Michael Bang/ Sznycer, Daniel/ Sell, Aaron/Cosmides, Leda/ Tooby, John, 2012, The ancestral logic of politics: Upper body strength regulates men’s assertion of self-interest over economic redistribution, Psychological Science, forthcoming.
Rosenberg, N.A. et al., 2002, Genetic Structure of Human Populations, Science, 298, 2381-2385.
Settle, J.E./ Dawes, C.T./ Christakis, N.A./Fowler, J.H, 2010, ‘Friendships Moderate an Association between a Dopamine Gene Variant and Political Ideology’, The Journal of Politics, 72(4), 1189–1198.
Sturgis, P./ Read, S./ Hatemi, P.K./ Zhu, G./ Trull, T./ Wright; M.J/Martin, N.G:, 2010, A Genetic Basis for Social Trust?, Political Behavior, 32:205–230.
Weaver, I.C.G., 2004, Epigenetic programming by maternal behavior, Nature Neuroscience 7, 847 - 854
Genopolitics and Comparative Politics
Political Outcomes
For example:
Democracy and non-democracy
Economic growth
War and peace
Rosenberg et al. 2002: "Within-population differences among individuals account for 93 to 95% of genetic variation; differences among major groups constitute only 3 to 5%."
Potential selection of individuals with specific genetic traits under different institutional conditions
More generally: Potential importance of conditional effects
The way ahead
Summer term 2013: Seminar on "Biologische Grundlagen politischen Handelns"
Future study on marathon runners and their propensity to cooperate
Cooperation with molecular biologists, biological anthropologists, neuroscientist, and behavioral economists

Linkage studies
Question: Are political traits heritable?
Comparison of allele distance between family and non-family members of the same trait
Suggested reading
Hatemi, Peter K./McDermott, Rose, eds., 2011: Man Is by Nature a Political Animal. Evolution, Biology, and Politics, University of Chicago Press.

Journal of Theoretical Politics, Special Issue: Genes and Politics, July 2012; 24(3).
Genetics, genomics, and beyond
Behavioral Epigenetics

Functional alterations to gene expression without changes to the underlying DNA
Short and long-term effects
Example: Rats' resistance to stress linked to licking and grooming by rat mother
"Increased pup licking and grooming (LG) and arched-back nursing (ABN) by rat mothers altered the offspring epigenome at a glucocorticoid receptor (GR) gene promoter in the hippocampus. Offspring of mothers that showed high levels of LG and ABN were found to have differences in DNA methylation, as compared to offspring of 'low-LG-ABN' mothers. These differences emerged over the first week of life, were reversed with cross-fostering, persisted into adulthood and were associated with altered histone acetylation and transcription factor (NGFI-A) binding to the GR promoter. Central infusion of a histone deacetylase inhibitor removed the group differences in histone acetylation, DNA methylation, NGFI-A binding, GR expression and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) responses to stress, suggesting a causal relation among epigenomic state, GR expression and the maternal effect on stress responses in the offspring." (Weaver et al. 2004)
Christian Martin
University of Kiel
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