A press release from the U. of Oslo:
New research suggests racism could be a genetic trait
by University of Oslo, AUGUST 4, 2020
Black Lives Matter (BLM) is an anti-racist movement in the United States, founded as a reaction to many incidents of racism and brutal police violence against black people. The movement got widespread international support in 2020 after the police murder on the Afro-american George Floyd. The murder set off a chain of demonstrations all over the world.
The death of U.S. citizen George Floyd caused demonstrations all over the world. Still, police violence against vulnerable groups and minorities is nothing new. How can racist attitudes and practices have survived so many generations?
According to a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), beliefs that some groups are superior to others are deeply influenced by genetics.
The researchers looked into why some attitudes tend to appear simultaneously. This may for example apply to the perception of some groups being better than others, or to the perception that certain ethnic and cultural groups are more capable of making decisions in society.
Previous research has suggested that such opinions often appear together, and that the environment only rarely shapes them.
Could it be that we are born with predispositions to certain political opinions? According to the findings, the answer is yes.
“People who share the same sets of attitudes also appear to share the same genes,” said Thomas Haarklau Kleppestø, Ph.D. fellow at the Department of Psychology, University of Oslo.
Around 2,000 adult Norwegian twins, identical and non-identical, answered a questionnaire to measure their social dominance orientation (SDO), a personality trait where a high score indicates a preference of a societal hierarchy.
Former research has liked this trait to political attitudes. A high score increases the possibility for support to items such as “Some groups of people must be kept in their place,” and “Some groups of people are inferior to other groups.”
The participants were to state their opinions on eight political proposals, such as strict immigration control and deportation of Romani people. Former research has found these proposals to correlate with SDO.
The researchers reasoned as follows: If the political opinions of identical twins were more alike than among non-identical, the reason would be genetic. Identical twins share 100 percent of their genes, while non-identical share 50 percent. …
Fellowship of Genes
As expected, the researchers found a link between SDO and political attitudes. E.g., those who favored a hierarchical structure in society often wished for stricter immigration control and reduced foreign aid.
However, the findings also revealed that peoples’ SDO had a genetic connection to all the eight measured political attitudes. According to Kleppestø, this could partly explain the link between the political attitudes.
“We do not believe that our genome directly controls our political attitudes. However, we speculate that we are born with a predisposition that is strengthened over time, for example when we find friends with similar preferences,” Kleppestø said.
The researchers believe that you may be born with a personality trait that could lead you into environments where it is enforced. So-called active gene-environment-correlation is well-known phenomenon in behavioral genetics.