A screencap of the webpage for one of the most popular consumer DNA testing companies, a firm that also sells consumer genealogical record programs..
That’s the conclusion of some fascinating new research published in this month’s Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin [$36 to access the article].
Conducted by social scientists in the U.S., Norway, Denmark, and Israel, the study has implications for those DNA tests advertised regularly on television promising to reveal all the components of your ethnic background.
The TV ads show folks who discover that they DNA proves they weren’t Scottish, German, of whatever, and how that discover changed their lives and their self-perceptions.
Here’s the abstract from the paper:
Information about the degree of one’s genetic overlap with ethnic outgroups has been emphasized in genocides, is frequently learned about through media reporting, and is increasingly being accessed via personal genetic testing services. However, the consequence of learning about whether your own ethnic group is either genetically related to or genetically distinct from a disliked ethnic group remains unknown. Across four experiments, using diverse samples, measures and contexts, we demonstrate that altering perceptions of genetic overlap between groups in conflict—in this case Arabs and Jews—impacts factors that are directly related to interethnic hostility (e.g., aggressive behaviors, support of conflict-related policies). Our findings indicate that learning about the genetic difference between oneself and an ethnic outgroup may contribute to the promotion of violence, whereas learning about the similarities may be a vital step toward fostering peace in some contexts. Possible interventions and implications are discussed.
In a post written for Scientific American’s blog, two of the authors, Sasha Kimel of Harvard and Jonas Kunst, who holds appointments at Harvard and the universities of Oslo in Norway and Aarhus in Denmark,describe their experiments and some of their implications.
From their post:
[W]e led Jewish participants to believe that they were playing a simple computerized game with an Arab opponent sitting in another room. If the Jewish participant won, they could give their opponent a loud blast of noise – up to the intensity of a fire alarm. Strikingly, Jewish participants who had first learned about the genetic differences “punished” their alleged Arab opponent with more intense noise blasts than those who had learned about the genetic similarities.
But can learning about genetic similarities or differences also alter peoples’ support for war? To test this, in a third experiment—run outside the laboratory—we randomly assigned Jewish participants to read one of our various news articles and then rate their support for peacemaking with Palestinians. Here, our results suggested that learning about genetic similarities might be an effective intervention for reducing conflict.
However, when we finally took the study to Israel—a context of ongoing violence and deeply entrenched negative views—we found something quite different. Here, learning about the genetic differences was what was really impactful. In this field experiment conducted on Israeli commuter trains, Jewish Israeli’s supported violence and war-like policies towards Palestinians much more after reading about their genetic differences with Arabs.
We’ve posted extensively about the deadly role of eugenics in fostering hatred, sterilizations, and mass murder, not only in Nazi but in the United States throughout the first half of the 20th Century.
Let us quote from one of our many posts on the subject:
“Their idea of utopia was that no one would exist who didn’t look like themselves,” explains Edwin R. Black, author of War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race .
While most folks probably assume that the Nazi plan to create a blond, blue-eyed “Aryan” master race was a uniquely German phenomenon, the reality is that Hitler simply embraced a program developed in the United States, and funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, the Carnegie Institution, and other grant-making institution.
Most of the German researchers who would go on to implement first the Nazi sterilization programs and later, the gassing first of mental patients and then Jews and Gypsies, were first sponsored by the American grant-givers.
Soon after his rise to the chancellorship, Hitler expressed regrets that he couldn’t implement programs already in place in the United States and set changing Germany’s laws.
Indeed, California would set the world record for forced sterilizations until Hitler unleashed his own doctors — many of whom had received American institutional grants — who would spearhead his war against the weak, modeling his own statutes on those already in operation in the U.S.
The dread of those dubbed “mental defectives” even led some mainstream American scientists to propose a “final solution” in the form of gas chambers, an idea subsequently adopted in Germany.
The implementation of eugenics programs here followed a rise of anti-immigrant hysteria focused on Southern Italians, Eastern European Jews, and Latinos, an ominous fact in light of the rising anti-immigrant hysteria now impacting our country.
But the eugenicists weren’t out simply to purge the globe of “mental defectives” and “inferior races.” They also targeted the deaf, the blind, the disabled, the alcoholic, the depressed, and the poor. As Black notes, eugenicists “believed you weren’t born into poverty; poverty was born into you.”