Introduction: What is a 'gene' and why does it matter for political science?

Peter K. Hatemi, Enda Byrne, Rose McDermott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


A recent stream of influential research suggests that the inclusion of behavioral genetic models can further inform our understanding of political preferences and behaviors. But it has often remained unclear what these models mean, or how they might matter for the broader discourse in the political science literature. The initial wave of behavioral genetic research focused on foundational discovery, and has begun to outline the basic properties of genetic influence on political traits, while a second wave of research has begun to link genetic findings to broader aspects of political behaviors. In the introduction to this special issue, we explicate how genes operate, the most common forms of behavioral genetic analyses, and their recent applications toward political behaviors. In so doing, we discuss what these findings mean for political science, and describe how best to interpret them. We note potential limitations of behavioral genetic approaches and remain cautious against the overextension of such models. The five articles that follow strive to move beyond discovery and focus more on the integration of behavioral genetic models with mainstream theories of political behavior to analyze problems of interest to political scientists.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)305-327
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Theoretical Politics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


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