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How Can We Make Genetics Education More Humane?

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Genetics Education


The science of human genetics does not have a socially neutral impact on human psychology. Exposure to some forms of genetic information can bias social cognition, leading individuals to develop biased perceptions of racial difference that further augment discriminatory attitudes, segregative behavior, and stereotyping. The converse is possible as well. This means that genetics education could have the power to both perpetuate and help prevent racial prejudice. In this chapter, we explore social-psychological theory and genetics education studies that elucidate how genetic information influences social cognition of race. First, we argue that genetics education can affect the development of a cognitive form of prejudice, called genetic essentialism, for better or worse, when it interacts with beliefs that influence the causal reasoning and social categorization tendencies of a learner. Second, we unpack several cognitive, sociocultural, and demographic factors that could enable or impede the psychological pathways connecting genetics education to the development of genetic essentialism. We close by arguing for a more humane genetics education; one that is purposefully designed to reduce racial prejudice by helping students understand the complexity of genomic science.

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  1. 1.

    Those interested in the interplay of genetics education and genetic essentialism of gender are referred to Donovan, et al. (2019).

  2. 2.

    This hypothesis can also apply to political identity (see Morin-Chassé et al., 2014).


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Correspondence to Brian M. Donovan .

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Donovan, B.M., Salazar, B., Weindling, M. (2021). How Can We Make Genetics Education More Humane?. In: Haskel-Ittah, M., Yarden, A. (eds) Genetics Education. Contributions from Biology Education Research. Springer, Cham.

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  • Publisher Name: Springer, Cham

  • Print ISBN: 978-3-030-86050-9

  • Online ISBN: 978-3-030-86051-6

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