Am I my genes? DNA, identity, and free will.


One of the most central discourses of modern philosophy identifies human beings as “causal animals” in a perpetual search for underlying causes of different occurrences they encounter. The last few decades witnessed the science of genetics advancing in leaps and bounds accompanied by increased media attention on and societal fascination with these sequences of deoxyribonucleic acid as causal explanations for a variety of phenomena. Regardless of the veracity of some of the genetic etiological accounts, recent theoretical and empirical research indicates that these etiological perceptions appear to activate “genetic essentialism.” According to this framework genetic attributions increase the likelihood that an outcome is perceived as immutable, predetermined, and natural. As such, genetic attributions activate stronger discrimination based on social categorizations such as gender, race, and ethnicity for example. One of the common threads of these biases is the effect on perceived agency and evaluations of personal choice. Thus, perceptions of personal control and choice are of main concern as are the consequances of the changes in these perceptions.


Dr Ilan Dar-Nimrod

Research Location

School of Psychology

Program Type



Do we behave differently after we learn that scientist discover the “obesity gene?” Do we judge men's sexual behaviour differently if we learn about an evolutionary account for males' promiscuity ("spread your seeds" hypothesis) vs. a social constructivist one? How are we affected if we suddenly find out that we have a gene associated with alcoholism? What happens to women’s math performance once they learn of a genetic (vs. experiential) explanation for men’s alleged superior math abilities? These questions have been recently addressed in some of my studies. However, they represent only the tip of the iceberg in this line of research with relevant questions that address ethnic and racial identity, health communications, genetic counselling, genes-by-environment interactions, and other issues still necessitate empirical evaluations.

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Genes, free will, determinism, causal attributions, psychological essentialism, health

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is: 1616

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