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Am J Hum Genet. 1998 Apr;62(4):979-84.

Determinism and mass-media portrayals of genetics.

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1
Department of Speech Communication, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA. ccondit@uga.cc.uga.edu

Abstract

Scholars have expressed concern that the introduction of substantial coverage of "medical genetics" in the mass media during the past 2 decades represents an increase in biological determinism in public discourse. To test this contention, we analyzed the contents of a randomly selected, structured sample of American public newspapers (n=250) and magazines (n=722) published during 1919-95. Three coders, using three measures, all with intercoder reliability >85%, were employed. Results indicate that the introduction of the discourse of medical genetics is correlated with both a statistically significant decrease in the degree to which articles attribute human characteristics to genetic causes (P<.001) and a statistically significant increase in the differentiation of attributions to genetic and other causes among various conditions or outcomes (P<. 016). There has been no statistically significant change in the relative proportions of physical phenomena attributed to genetic causes, but there has been a statistically significant decrease in the number of articles assigning genetic causes to mental (P<.002) and behavioral (P<.000) characteristics. These results suggest that the current discourse of medical genetics is not accurately described as more biologically deterministic than its antecedents.

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PMID:
9529342
PMCID:
PMC1377024
DOI:
10.1086/301784
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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