Genetic Economics

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This is interesting.  Supposedly, it’s the first time a direct link between genes and decisionmaking has been established in humans.  In other words, it’s the first time scientists have been able to say, “If you have genetic makeup A, you are more likely to choose X over Y in a given situation.”

 Maybe all this partisanship is genetically encoded.  Which would mean the only way to solve it is through cross-breeding.  See, we knew James Carville and Mary Matalin had to be taking one for the team.

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5 Responses to “Genetic Economics”

  1. Whitney Says:

    Let me say up front I’m not trying to rain on your parade in anyway. This is probably the first time that heritability of decision-making has been studied in economics. But the genetic component of behavior, including decision-making, has been studied for a while by psychologists. Most, if not all, of these studies are twin studies because it is the easiest way to know you’re starting out with identical genetic material, so it is easier to cull out the nurture v. nature.

    I have some question about “up to 40% of the variation” because that could mean anything. I could mean that most of the time, only 10% was explained, but in once case 40% was…or vice versa. If it is 40% in most cases, that really is going to be pretty significant.

    Also, the personality folks are going to be screaming…”we’ve been explaining the genetic influence on personality forever…decisions are largely based on personality…this is nothing new!!”

    But I bet it was still some pretty cool research for economics folks to get to work on.

    Thanks for a post that really stimulates my not-so-inner nerd.

    I think your idea of cross-breeding sounds great. Lets start a forced human breeding program to develop the perfectly appropriate American. 🙂 You’ll naturally want couple in which each person represents opposite extremes in order to create a good moderate. I think we should start with someone from PETA and Michael Vick. AHHAHAHAHAAAA. I just cracked myself up.

  2. Whitney Says:

    BTW, thanks for the link to CogNews. How fun (for me)! I have a new site bookmarked now to take up even more of the time I should be working.

  3. urbino Says:

    You’re not raining on my parade at all. I stuck that “supposedly” in there for a reason. Several, actually. Although, the existence of other studies that had already done this wasn’t one of them, since I didn’t know about those. I knew people had been working on genetic components of behavior for a long time, and that twins were a key piece of it, but I didn’t know psychologists had already demonstrated a direct link between genes and a specific behavior. Any further info on that (or links or whatnot) would be appreciated, if you have time.

    You’re welcome for the new time-waster. These neuroscience sites are really proliferating these days. I can’t keep up. CogNews wasn’t one I had been reading; I just saw this story linked to from somewhere else.

  4. Whitney Says:

    Most notably risk-taking and addictive behaviors, but I don’t know specific cites off the top of my head. You can google “Genetic Influence” and “Decision-Making” Or “Impulsivity” or “addiction” and get several hits. Suicide is another I’ve seen linked to genes. You can also search Medline (probably) and get some quick cites.

    This study only indicates a genetic predisposition. It does not prove a direct link, which is where I think their synopsis is slightly misleading (as are too many abstracts). It looks to me like a correlational study that reveals that identical twins act the same when there is no real motivation to do so more often than fraternal twins, indicating a genetic component (if variation is measured by r-squared, the largest correlation seen, calculated by Pearson r, would be between .60-.70, which is very large, but not unheard of in twin studies). But there could be other factors driving the correlation. One day I’ll actually read the study to see if they did more than a correlation/simple regression analysis to really look at causes of variation.

    When they actually start mapping the genes and showing a very direct component, then it will get interesting.

  5. babykangaroo Says:

    Nerd. Big nerd. This is much worse than knowing that the Nile flows north.

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