Genetic Attributions and Group Stereotypes: A Preliminary Examination of Two Cases
39 Pages Posted: 27 Aug 2013
Date Written: 2013
We contend that that individuals develop causal stories to explain the world around them, including events, behaviors, and conditions in society. These are personal narratives that attribute causes to controllable components, such as individual choices, or uncontrollable components, such as broader forces in the environment. To this we add biological or genetic attributions that have received increasing attention as researchers have made tremendous advances. We argue that people’s understanding about genetics as a cause for group behaviors or conditions affects stereotypical judgments about such groups. Making use of individual level data from recent surveys of American adults we examine causal beliefs about genetic influences on sexual orientation and racial differences and their influence on beliefs in stereotypes about these groups. Our analyses suggest that belief in genetic attributions strongly shapes perceptions of immutability and beliefs in stereotypes about groups. We discuss the implications of our findings for attribution theory and the potential negative social consequences of the public’s apparent misperceptions about genetics research.
Keywords: attribution, attitudes, gays, African-American, stereotypes
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