Learning to Love Animal (Models) (or) How (Not) to Study Genes as a Social Scientist

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

3 Scopus citations


In this chapter, I will argue that social science and genomics can be integrated – however, the way this marriage is currently occurring rests on spurious methods and assumptions and, as a result, will yield few lasting insights. However, recent advances in both econometrics and in developmental genomics provide scientists with a novel opportunity to understand how genes and (social) environment interact. To presage my argument: Key to any causal inference about genetically heterogeneous effects of social conditions is that either genetics be exogenously manipulated while environment is held constant (and measured properly), and/or that environmental variation is exogenous in nature – i.e. experimental or arising from a natural experiment of sorts. Further, allele selection should be motivated by findings from genetic experiments in (model) animal studies linked to orthologous human genes. Likewise, genetic associations found in human population studies should then be tested through knock-out and over-expression studies in model organisms. Finally, gene silencing can be a promising avenue of research in humans if careful thought is given to when and which cells are harvested for analysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationHandbooks of Sociology and Social Research
PublisherSpringer Science and Business Media B.V.
Number of pages16
StatePublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameHandbooks of Sociology and Social Research
ISSN (Print)1389-6903
ISSN (Electronic)2542-839X

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychology (miscellaneous)
  • Social Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
  • Fraternal Twin
  • Regression Discontinuity
  • Stressful Life Event


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