Towards a genetically informed approach in the social sciences: Strengths and an opportunity

T.C. Bates, Gary J. Lewis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Researchers agree that heritable effects influence almost all traits of interest for social science. A corollary of ubiquitous heritability is that measurement and control of genetic differences is essential for basic and applied social science. Despite this, remarkably few studies in the social sciences use genetically informative samples. Here we discuss how complex-trait behavior genetics can be used more effectively to address a range of social science questions, including multivariate genetic modeling, discordant twin designs, studies of gene-environment interaction, and adoption studies. We next advocate a concerted effort to build a new openly accessible resource to increase the utilization of genetically informative designs in social science research. Specific criteria for this proposed resource are defined and include full coverage of socio-economic status, multiple and complementary family, environmental, and genetic relationships, an open and extensible method for low-cost testing, and an open-access data repository. We suggest the cost would be moderate and returns high, generating benefits for many hundreds of researchers, maximizing impact for funders, and increase the rate of scientific progress in social science.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)374-380
JournalPersonality and Individual Differences
Issue number4
Early online date5 Apr 2012
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2012

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