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Discuss ethical considerations in research into genetic influences on behavior

First quickly define what makes the BLA unique with its focus on our physiology.

Genetic research can pose risk to participants because of the link between genetic heritage and people’s life. Genetic  information can be stigmatizing and may affect people’s ability to get jobs or insurance.


Concerns in Genetic research:


  • Knowledge about the role of specific genes in behavior is still limited so researchers should be careful about making definite conclusions. Genetic research is often reductionist as it does not include environmental factors.
  • Genetic research is correlational by nature so one should be careful to make definite conclusions about the risk of developing a disease.
  • It is not certain that genetic research, like the Human Genome Project, is ethically neutral. There are historical examples of misuse of ethically sensible data (e.g. eugenics in Nazi Germany) and it is not guaranteed that data could not be misused again.
  • Genetic research into complex behavior such as homosexuality is controversial because of the social meaning and significance of homosexuality. Genetic research could result in stigmatization and discrimination as many societies are homophobic. The search for the “gay gene” has generally raised controversy.





Anonymity and confidentiality

  • Participants in a genetic study must be sure that their anonymity and confidentiality is protected but in family and twin studies it can be difficult to ensure this fully. This is also the case in the research of rare disorders.
  • Participants have a right to know who owns the genetic information and how it will be used in the future.

Informed consent and the right to refuse or withdraw

  • Participants have a right to be fully informed about what the research is about, the procedures, what could be the result of the study and how the information will be used.
  • Research into genetic influences on behavior could potentially pose risks to participants and the genetic information could be misused.
  • Genetic research can reveal information that is unexpected or a source of distress to participants (e.g. when a participant has no sign of a disorder but the data shows a genetic predisposition).

Study to use: Caspi et al. (2003)….this might be optional to use a study here.  But you could talk about how knowing the size of someone’s 5-HTT gene could affect how they are perceived or even how they perceive themselves.