LizSuhay - Why Twin Studies Are Problematic for the Study...

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Unformatted text preview: Why Twin Studies Are Problematic for the Study of Political Ideology: Rethinking Are Political Orientations Genetically Transmitted? Elizabeth Suhay*, Doctoral Candidate Department of Political Science, University of Michigan suhay@umich.edu Nathan Kalmoe, Doctoral Student Department of Political Science, University of Michigan kalmoe@umich.edu Christa McDermott, Ph.D. Department of Psychology and Program in Womens Studies, University of Michigan mcdc@umich.edu Acknowledgements: An earlier version of this article was presented at the International Society of Political Psychology 2007 annual meeting. Our thanks to M. Kent Jennings, Nicky Newton, Leon Porter, Perry Silverschanz, Abby Stewart, Laura Stoker, Cynthia Torges, David Winter, and Nick Winter for their comments and suggestions. *Corresponding author. Department of Political Science, University of Michigan. 5700 Haven Hall, 505 South State Street, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-1045. 1 ABSTRACT We present a critical analysis of Alford, Funk, and Hibbings Are Political Orientations Genetically Transmitted? (2005) and the twin study method on which it relies. We argue that the heritability statistics generated by classic twin studies are likely inflated because of violations of the Equal Environments Assumption. Further, we argue that such twin studies shed little light on what causes human traits to develop: they focus on variation rather than causation and ignore nature / nurture interactions. Alford et al. provide misleading discussions of these limitations. They also make several specific genetic claims that are not empirically supported. In response to the authors undervaluation of social influences on ideology, we present data from the socialization literature on social transmission of political attitudes in the family. Finally, we propose a more useful theoretical framework for analyzing the complex, interacting relationships of biological and social influences on political orientations called constructivist interactionism . 2 Introduction In May 2005, the premier political science journal American Political Science Review published an article titled Are Political Orientations Genetically Transmitted? The authors, John R. Alford, Carolyn L. Funk, and John R. Hibbing, draw on the twin study method of behavioral genetics to argue that much of the variance in political ideology is attributable to genetics. Their work opens a new avenue of inquiry in political science that explores the joint influence of biology and our environments on politically relevant traits. While we believe this research agenda holds much promise, we are concerned about a number of flaws in the authors arguments and methods that we fear may be reproduced in other political scientists work....
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LizSuhay - Why Twin Studies Are Problematic for the Study...

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