Genism of the week: hybrid cars, chocolate, science fiction movies, mustard and jazz

Posted by Jillian Theil September 23, 2010
Biopolitical Times

A new study in the Journal of Consumer Research about heritability of consumer preferences has popped up in a number of news outlets. It compares the preferences of fraternal and identical twins, suggesting that there is a genetic link to preferences for hybrid cars, chocolate, science fiction movies, mustard and jazz.

Authors Itamar Simonson of Stanford and Aner Sela of the University of Florida, Gainesville conclude their study saying:

 (S)ome people may be born with a tendency to 'be in the mainstream' whereas others tend to 'live on the edge.’

Sadly but not surprisingly, several of the articles covering the story have used language that is far too strong for their subject matter (1, 2). The popular phrase “blame your genes” has appeared at least a couple times.

What’s wrong with this? For starters, as Dorothy Bishop, professor of developmental neuropsychology points out:

(W)e need to realise that twin studies, which consider the total effect of a person’s genetic makeup on a trait, often give very different results from molecular studies of individual genes.

While “blame your genes” has a nice ring, it’s the kind of language that fosters the worst kind of “genism.”

Previously on Biopolitical Times: