Beliefs About Genes and Environment as Determinants of Behavioral Characteristics

Posted: 29 Jul 2009

See all articles by Eleanor Singer

Eleanor Singer

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Toni C. Antonucci

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Margit Burmeister

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Mick P. Couper

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor

Trivellore Raghunathan

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Survey Research Center, Survey Methodology Program; University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - School of Public Health, Department of Biostatistics

John Van Hoewyk

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Abstract

This study investigates beliefs about the determinants of such behavioral characteristics as intelligence, athleticism, obesity, and alcoholism by asking respondents to the 2004 General Social Survey to rate vignettes describing individuals exhibiting these characteristics along a 21-point scale ranging from complete genetic determination to complete environmental determination. The vignettes systematically varied the social desirability of the characteristic as well as the race and gender of the person exhibiting it. We analyzed the effect of the carefully counterbalanced vignette characteristics and the corresponding rater characteristics on respondents’ ratings of the vignettes, hypothesizing that these ratings would reflect mechanisms of claiming credit for desirable characteristics and avoiding blame for undesirable ones. Contrary to our expectations, we found no effect of any of the vignette characteristics on the ratings, and only two significant main effects of respondent demographic characteristics: Black respondents were more likely to use genetic ratings; and better educated respondents, environmental ones.

Suggested Citation

Singer, Eleanor and Antonucci, Toni C. and Burmeister, Margit and Couper, Mick P. and Raghunathan, Trivellore and Van Hoewyk, John, Beliefs About Genes and Environment as Determinants of Behavioral Characteristics. International Journal of Public Opinion Research, Vol. 19, Issue 3, pp. 331-353, 2007. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1440585 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ijpor/edm016

Eleanor Singer (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN

No Address Available

Toni C. Antonucci

affiliation not provided to SSRN

No Address Available

Margit Burmeister

affiliation not provided to SSRN

No Address Available

Mick P. Couper

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor ( email )

500 S. State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States

Trivellore Raghunathan

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Survey Research Center, Survey Methodology Program ( email )

426 Thompson Street
Institute for Social Research
Ann Arbor, MI 48106-1248
United States
(734) 647-4619 (Phone)

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - School of Public Health, Department of Biostatistics ( email )

1415 Washington Heights
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2029
United States

John Van Hoewyk

affiliation not provided to SSRN

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