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Correlations between social dominance orientation and political attitudes reflect common genetic underpinnings

Kleppestø, Thomas Haarklau, Czajkowski, Nikolai Olavi, Vassend, Olav, Røysamb, Espen, Eftedal, Nikolai Haahjem, Sheehy-Skeffington, Jennifer ORCID: 0000-0003-0372-4867, Kunst, Jonas R. and Thomsen, Lotte (2019) Correlations between social dominance orientation and political attitudes reflect common genetic underpinnings. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 116 (36). 17741 - 17746. ISSN 0027-8424

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Identification Number: 10.1073/pnas.1818711116


A foundational question in the social sciences concerns the interplay of underlying causes in the formation of people's political beliefs and prejudices. What role, if any, do genes, environmental influences, or personality dispositions play? Social dominance orientation (SDO), an influential index of people's general attitudes toward intergroup hierarchy, correlates robustly with political beliefs. SDO consists of the subdimensions SDO-dominance (SDO-D), which is the desire people have for some groups to be actively oppressed by others, and SDO-egalitarianism (SDO-E), a preference for intergroup inequality. Using a twin design (n = 1,987), we investigate whether the desire for intergroup dominance and inequality makes up a genetically grounded behavioral syndrome. Specifically, we investigate the heritability of SDO, in addition to whether it genetically correlates with support for political policies concerning the distribution of power and resources to different social groups. In addition to moderate heritability estimates for SDO-D and SDO-E (37% and 24%, respectively), we find that the genetic correlation between these subdimensions and political attitudes was overall high (mean genetic correlation 0.51), while the environmental correlation was very low (mean environmental correlation 0.08). This suggests that the relationship between political attitudes and SDO-D and SDO-E is grounded in common genetics, such that the desire for (versus opposition to) intergroup inequality and support for political attitudes that serve to enhance (versus attenuate) societal disparities form convergent strategies for navigating group-based dominance hierarchies.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2019 The Authors
Divisions: Psychological and Behavioural Science
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Date Deposited: 19 Sep 2019 14:33
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 02:42

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