Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Am J Hum Genet. 1998 Apr;62(4):979-84.

Determinism and mass-media portrayals of genetics.

Author information

Department of Speech Communication, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA.


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.

Comment in

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Elsevier Science Icon for PubMed Central
    Loading ...
    Support Center