The Media and Behavioral Genetics: Alternatives Coexisting with Addiction Genetics

Molly J Dingel, Jenny Ostergren, Jennifer B. McCormick, Rachel Hammer, Barbara A. Koenig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


To understand public discourse in the United States on genetic causation of behavioral disorders, we analyzed media representations of genetic research on addiction published between 1990 and 2010. We conclude first that the media simplistically represent biological bases of addiction and willpower as being mutually exclusive: behaviors are either genetically determined, or they are a choice. Second, most articles provide only cursory or no treatment of the environmental contribution. A media focus on genetics directs attention away from environmental factors. Rhetorically, media neglect the complexity underlying the etiology the addiction and direct focus back toward individual causation and responsibility.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)459-486
Number of pages28
JournalScience Technology and Human Values
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 12 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: The project described was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse [Grant number: R01 DA014577]; and the Mayo Clinic S.C. Johnson Genomics of Addiction Program.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2014.


  • addiction
  • behavioral genetics
  • discourse analysis
  • genetics
  • media
  • science and knowledge


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