Discord over DNA: Politically Contingent Responses to Scientific Research on Genes and Race
Posted: 25 Aug 2014 Last revised: 28 Sep 2016
Date Written: 2014
We argue that attributing racial inequality to genetic differences between blacks and whites is not entirely a notion from a bygone era and that common (mis)perceptions of how genes work and the political implications of those perceptions increase the likelihood of motivated reasoning surrounding this topic. We test for ideologically motivated reasoning among white Americans in response to media messages conveying the contemporary scientific perspective that racial differences are not genetic in origin. In two studies — one observational and one experimental — we find that political ideologues on the left and right reacted very differently to this information. Liberals exposed to such messages were less likely to endorse genetic explanations for race differences than their low exposure liberal counterparts, whereas conservatives exposed to such messages were more likely to endorse genetic explanations. We conclude that there is latent potential for an eruption of public disagreement over the causes of racial inequality.
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