Behavioral genetics in Polish print news media between 2000 and 2014
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Pracownia Socjologii Zdrowia i Patologii Społecznych, Katedra Nauk Społecznych, Uniwersytet Medyczny im. Karola Marcinkowskiego w Poznaniu
Submission date: 2016-03-23
Final revision date: 2016-04-14
Acceptance date: 2016-04-15
Publication date: 2016-12-23
Corresponding author
Jan Domaradzki   

Uniwersytet Medyczny im. Karola Marcinkowskiego, ul. Dąbrowskiego 79, 60-529 Poznań, Polska
Psychiatr Pol 2016;50(6):1251-1271
The aim of this paper is to describe how Polish print news media frame relations between genetics and human behaviors and what images of behavioral genetics dominate in press discourse.

A content and frame analysis of 72 print news articles about behavioral genetics published between 2000 and 2014 in four major Polish weekly magazines: “Polityka”, “Wprost”, “Newsweek” and “Przekrój” was conducted.

Twenty one different behaviors were mentioned in the sample and six major analytic frames were identified: essentialist, materialistic, deterministic, probabilistic, optimistic and pessimistic. The most common was the tendency to describe human behaviors in terms of genetic essentialism, reductionism and determinism, as almost one half of the articles was focused solely on genetic determinants of human behaviors and lacked any reference to polygenetic and/or environmental conditioning. Although most of the articles were balanced in tone, benefits were stressed more often than potential risks. Stories that confirmed existence of genetic determinants of human behavior were favored over those that did not. One third of the articles stressed the social or ethical consequences of the development of behavioral genetics.

The complex and abstract character of genetic knowledge results in a simplistic portrayal of behavioral genetics in the press, which may lead to a misunderstood interpretation of the complicated interplay between behavior, genetics and environment by the public. Consequently, print news media contribute to geneticization of behaviors. It is important to improve the quality of science reporting on behavioral genetics and to educate researchers how to communicate with the media more effectively.

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