Genetic Knowledge Explains. It Doesn’t Predict.

Genetic Knowledge Explains. It Doesn’t Predict.

“How can he stay so calm when I just want to explode?”  “I like to be home and he wants to go, go, go all the time.” What accounts for differences in our behavioral tendencies?  More and more, genetics is weighing in on how much our genes influence our personalities and the actions we take.

Even as next generation sequencing is helping us understand the role of genetics in disease, the same technologies and others are revealing the contributions of genes and biology to behavior. Am I an extrovert because I saw my father was the life of the party at every social event? Or did he pass on to me the genetic predisposition for social engagement?  Or both?  Are these learned behaviors, or are there genetic predispositions that lend themselves to violent behavior?  Is there a genetic test I can take that predicts my own potential for violence?

This is the topic of two videos by Sara Huston Katsanis from Duke Science and Society. A researcher in the area of genetics, behavior, ethics and policy, Sara discusses what we know about the interaction of genetics and behavior.  What can we really predict about human behavior in light of increasing knowledge from genetics?  Why does it matter? How far can we go in using genetic profiling to predict human behavior?

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(This post is part of the Sinai and Synapses Discussion Forum, a collection of perspectives on specific topics. It is part of our series “Are We More Than Our Genes?” For more on our series of videos exploring this question, please look at the post Our Genes, Our Selves.)


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