Study: Many genes of small effect influence economic and political attitudes

May 31, 2012

(Medical Xpress) -- Unrelated people who are more similar genetically tend to have more similar attitudes and preferences, reports a new Cornell study published May 7 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The findings suggest that genetic data -- taken as a whole -- could eventually help predict economic and political preferences.

The research team, led by Daniel Benjamin, Cornell assistant professor of economics, studied 3,000 people with comprehensive genetic data and information on economic and . "We showed that on the whole the genes help explain preferences by showing that people who share more of their genome have more similar preferences, but we were unable to connect specific genes with specific preferences," said Benjamin.

Thus, the researchers concluded current has essentially no predictive power for the 10 traits studied, which included preferences about environmental policy, foreign affairs, and economic fairness.

This conclusion is at odds with dozens of previous papers that have reported with such traits, which Benjamin concludes may be partly because of their small sample size; his study included 10 times more participants than the previous studies.

"If you want to find genetic variants that account for some of the differences between people in their economic and political behavior, you need samples an order of magnitude larger than those presently used," he said.

He added, "an implication of our findings is that most published associations of genes with political and are probably false positives. These studies are implicitly based on the incorrect assumption that there are common genetic variants with large effects."

The study also found evidence that the effects of individual genetic variants are tiny, and these variants are scattered across the genome. The research team concluded that it may be more productive in future research to focus on behaviors that are more closely linked to specific biological systems, such as nicotine addiction, obesity and emotional reactivity, and are, therefore, likely to have stronger associations with specific genetic variants.

Explore further: New evidence that many genes of small effect influence economic decisions and political attitudes

Related Stories

New evidence that many genes of small effect influence economic decisions and political attitudes

May 15, 2012
Genetic factors explain some of the variation in a wide range of people's political attitudes and economic decisions – such as preferences toward environmental policy and financial risk taking – but most associations ...

In the genes, but which ones? Earlier studies that linked specific genes to intelligence were largely wrong

February 24, 2012
For decades, scientists have understood that there is a genetic component to intelligence, but a new Harvard study has found both that most of the genes thought to be linked to the trait are probably not in fact related to ...

Genetic risks for type 2 diabetes span multiple ethnicities

February 9, 2012
A recent large and comprehensive analysis of 50,000 genetic variants across 2,000 genes linked to cardiovascular and metabolic function has identified four genes associated with type 2 diabetes (T2D) and six independent disease-associated ...

As population exploded, more rare genes entered human genome

May 11, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- As the Earth's human population has skyrocketed since the rise of agriculture some 10,000 years ago -- to 7 billion people from a few million -- so, too, has the number of rare genetic variants.

Recommended for you

Study reveals an ancient Achilles heel in the human genome

September 21, 2017
In a major study published today, researchers at deCODE genetics use whole-genome data from 14,000 people from across the population of Iceland, including 1500 sets of parents and children, to provide the most detailed portrait ...

Genome editing reveals role of gene important for human embryo development

September 20, 2017
Researchers have used genome editing technology to reveal the role of a key gene in human embryos in the first few days of development. This is the first time that genome editing has been used to study gene function in human ...

A piece of the puzzle: Eight autism-related mutations in one gene

September 19, 2017
Scientists have identified a hotspot for autism-related mutations in a single gene.

Scientists identify key regulator of male fertility

September 19, 2017
When it comes to male reproductive fertility, timing is everything. Now scientists are finding new details on how disruption of this timing may contribute to male infertility or congenital illness.

New assay leads to step toward gene therapy for deaf patients

September 18, 2017
Scientists at Oregon State University have taken an important step toward gene therapy for deaf patients by developing a way to better study a large protein essential for hearing and finding a truncated version of it.

Genomic recycling: Ancestral genes take on new roles

September 18, 2017
One often hears about the multitude of genes we have in common with chimps, birds or other living creatures, but such comparisons are sometimes misleading. The shared percentage usually refers only to genes that encode instructions ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.