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Do genes shape personality characteristics and social inequality?

Published on 15. Oktober 2015, 09:25 h
New research group studying the causes of life chances at Bielefeld University’s Center for Interdisciplinary Research (ZiF)

We do not start life as a blank slate. Genes influence our personality characteristics and individual abilities just as strongly as social inequalities, social mobility, and social integration. But how exactly do genetic and social influences impact on our position in society? What are the advantages and disadvantages of modern research strategies such as genome-wide association studies or extended twin family designs? Can the advantages of different designs be combined? These are the questions being addressed by the second Research Group in 2015/2016 at Bielefeld University’s Center for Interdisciplinary Research (ZiF). It starts on the 19th of October with an opening conference on ‘Genetic and Social Causes of Life Chances’.


The successful sequencing of the human genome led to the hope that this would answer just about every question on human development. Nowadays, it is clear that the interplay between genes and the environment is far more complicated than previously assumed. ‘But if we don’t include genetic factors in our reasoning, we are ignoring an integral part of the explanation. This all the more serious, because the influences of nature and nurture do not just interact additively. They also co-vary and reveal a host of interaction effects,’ explains the Bielefeld sociologist Prof. Dr. Martin Diewald, who is running the Research Group together with the psychologist Prof. Dr. Rainer Riemann (also Bielefeld). Taking genetic influences into account does not mean automatically overlooking social advantage and disadvantage.

The ZiF Research Group brings together fifty leading international experts from psychology, sociology, biology, genetics, medicine, economics, philosophy, and political sciences. They will be examining models and methods that will help us to understand not only the influences and interactions of nature and nurture factors but also the psychological, biological, and societal processes mediating between genes and life chances. ‘To gain a better understanding of genetic predispositions and social conditions, we have to include not only the biological transmission mechanisms but also the ways in which they are influenced by the material, social, and cultural conditions to be found in relationships, groups, organizations, and institutions,’ explains Rainer Riemann. He also announces that the group will not avoid addressing the previously sensitive ethical-normative and socio-political implications of research results on genetic influences and their connection with societal conditions.

The conference language is English. Representatives of the press are cordially invited to report on the event.


Conference dates:
Monday, 19 October 2015, 12.30 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Tuesday, 20 October 2015, 9.30 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Wednesday, 21 October 2015, 9.30 a.m. to 7 p.m.; 5 p.m.: panel discussion: ‘Moral implications of genetic foundations of inequalities’  
Thursday, 22 October 2015, 9.30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Further information is available online at:
www.uni-bielefeld.de/(de)/ZIF/FG/2015LifeChances/index.html

Contact for academic queries:
Professor Dr. Martin Diewald
Bielefeld University Faculty of Sociology
E-Mail: martin.diewald@uni-bielefeld.de

Professor Dr. Rainer Riemann
Bielefeld University Department of Psychology
E-Mail: rainer.riemann@uni-bielefeld.de    

Contact for organizational queries:
Trixi Valentin, Bielefeld University
Center for Interdisciplinary Research
Telephone: 0521 106-2769
Email: trixi.valentin@uni-bielefeld.de

Posted by NFrei in General
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