GES Home
Support the GES Center
Support the GES Center


Loading Events

« All Events

Virtual Event
  • This event has passed.

Steve Heine – Essentialism and Distortion in Eugenics and GMO Attitudes [Zoom Only] | GES Colloquium

April 2 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

Virtual Event

Colloquium Home | Zoom Registration | GES Video Library (current) | Video Archives | Podcast | @GESCenterNCSU | Newsletter

How essences distort our understanding of genes: Implications for eugenics and GMO attitudes Zoom

Steven Heine, PhD, Professor of Cultural & Social Psychology, University of British Columbia

Profile | @StevenHeine4

How psychological biases of essentialism distort the ways people understand genetics, eugenics, and GMO products.

Download seminar poster


People the world over are essentialist thinkers – they are attracted to the idea that hidden essences make things as they are. And because genetic concepts remind people of essences, they tend to think of genes in ways similar to essences. That is, people tend to think about genetic causes as immutable, deterministic, natural, and they create homogenous and discrete groups. I will discuss the results of a number of psychological experiments that reveals how people’s essentialist biases distort the way that they understand genetic causes. In particular, I’ll discuss the relationships between essentialist thinking, eugenic beliefs, and attitudes towards GMO products.

Related links:

Speaker Bio

Steven J. Heine is a Professor of Social and Cultural Psychology and a Distinguished University Scholar at the University of British Columbia. After receiving his PhD from the University of British Columbia in 1996, he had visiting positions at Kyoto University and Tokyo University, and was on the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania before returning to British Columbia. Heine has published several dozen journal articles in such periodicals as Science, Nature, and Behavioral and Brain Sciences He has authored the best-selling textbook in its field, entitled “Cultural Psychology,” and has written a trade book called “DNA is not Destiny.” Heine has received numerous international awards and is a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

Heine’s research focuses on a few topics that converge on how people come to understand themselves and their worlds. One of his main projects, which is the topic of his presentation, focuses on genetic essentialism, which explores how people make sense of genetic ideas. Quite typically, people have an overly fatalistic understanding about how genes influence their lives. For example, he finds that when people learn that genes relate to their risk for obesity they subsequently tend to eat more junk food, as they feel that their weight is beyond their control. He has explored how people’s essentialist views of genetics affects their support for eugenics and GMO products.

GES Colloquium is jointly taught by Drs. Jen Baltzegar and Dawn Rodriguez-Ward, who you may contact with any class-specific questions. Colloquium will be held in person in the 1911 Building, room 129, and live-streamed via Zoom.

Please subscribe to the GES newsletter and LinkedIn for updates.


April 2
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Event Categories:
Event Tags:
, ,
Register on Zoom


GES Center
View Organizer Website