Researchers find a 'liberal gene'
Liberals may owe their political outlook partly to their genetic make-up, according to new research from the University of California, San Diego, and Harvard University. Ideology is affected not just by social factors, but also by a dopamine receptor gene called DRD4. The study's authors say this is the first research to identify a specific gene that predisposes people to certain political views. Appearing in the latest edition of The Journal of Politics published by Cambridge University Press, the research focused on 2,000 subjects from The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. By matching genetic information with maps of the subjects' social networks, the researchers were able to show that people with a specific variant of the DRD4 gene were more likely to be liberal as adults, but only if they had an active social life in adolescence.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter affecting brain processes that control movement, emotional response, and ability to experience pleasure and pain. Previous research has identified a connection between a variant of this gene and novelty-seeking behavior, and this behavior has previously been associated with personality traits related to political liberalism.
Lead researcher James H. Fowler of UC San Diego and his colleagues hypothesized that people with the novelty-seeking gene variant would be more interested in learning about their friends' points of view. As a consequence, people with this genetic predisposition who have a greater-than-average number of friends would be exposed to a wider variety of social norms and lifestyles, which might make them more liberal than average. They reported that "it is the crucial interaction of two factors – the genetic predisposition and the environmental condition of having many friends in adolescence – that is associated with being more liberal." The research team also showed that this held true independent of ethnicity, culture, sex or age.
Fowler concludes that the social and institutional environment cannot entirely explain a person's political attitudes and beliefs and that the role of genes must be taken into account. "These findings suggest that political affiliation is not based solely on the kind of social environment people experience," said Fowler, professor of political science and medical genetics at UC San Diego.
"It is our hope that more scholars will begin to explore the potential interaction of biology and environment," he said. "The way forward is to look for replication in different populations and age groups."
- Reading the Guardian? It could be down to your 'liberal genes'from The Guardian - ScienceThu, 28 Oct 2010, 16:31:19 EDT
- Study tries to identify 'political' genefrom MSNBC: ScienceThu, 28 Oct 2010, 12:30:59 EDT
- Researchers find a 'liberal gene'from Science CentricThu, 28 Oct 2010, 12:30:42 EDT
- Researchers find a 'liberal gene'from Science DailyThu, 28 Oct 2010, 9:31:29 EDT
- DRD4 And Dopamine: Liberals Are Born Genetically Different, Says Studyfrom Scientific BloggingThu, 28 Oct 2010, 4:30:54 EDT
- Researchers find a ‘liberal gene’from Science BlogWed, 27 Oct 2010, 17:30:14 EDT
- Researchers find a 'liberal gene'from PhysorgWed, 27 Oct 2010, 17:00:14 EDT
- Researchers Find a 'Liberal Gene'from Newswise - ScinewsWed, 27 Oct 2010, 16:40:13 EDT
Latest Science NewsletterGet the latest and most popular science news articles of the week in your Inbox! It's free!
Learn more about
Check out our next project, Biology.Net
From other science news sites
Popular science news articles
- Decades-old amber collection offers new views of a lost world
- Mercury's magnetic field tells scientists how its interior is different from Earth's
- Chinese mosquitos on the Baltic Sea
- Antarctic ice sheet is result of CO2 decrease, not continental breakup
- Supportive moms and sisters boost female baboon's rank
- Stanford team achieves 'holy grail' of battery design: A stable lithium anode
- Common blood thinner for pregnant women proven ineffective: Lancet study
- New research suggests Saharan dust is key to the formation of Bahamas' Great Bank
- Hubble finds 3 surprisingly dry exoplanets
- Earlier Stone Age artifacts found in Northern Cape of South Africa
- Smithsonian scientist and collaborators revise timeline of human origins
- Meet the gomphothere: UA archaeologist involved in discovery of bones of elephant ancestor
- New view of Rainier's volcanic plumbing
- Domestication syndrome: White patches, baby faces and tameness
- Extinct human cousin gave Tibetans advantage at high elevation