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Am I my genes? DNA, identity, and free will.


One of the most central discourses of modern philosophy identifies human beings as “causal animals” in a perpetual search for underlying causes of different occurrences they encounter. The last few decades witnessed the science of genetics advancing in leaps and bounds accompanied by increased media attention on and societal fascination with these sequences of deoxyribonucleic acid as causal explanations for a variety of phenomena. Regardless of the veracity of some of the genetic etiological accounts, recent theoretical and empirical research indicates that these etiological perceptions appear to activate “genetic essentialism.” According to this framework genetic attributions increase the likelihood that an outcome is perceived as immutable, predetermined, and natural. As such, genetic attributions activate stronger discrimination based on social categorizations such as gender, race, and ethnicity for example. One of the common threads of these biases is the effect on perceived agency and evaluations of personal choice. Thus, perceptions of personal control and choice are of main concern as are the consequances of the changes in these perceptions.


Dr Ilan Dar-Nimrod.

Research location

School of Psychology

Program type



Do we behave differently after we learn that scientist discover the “obesity gene?” Do we judge men's sexual behaviour differently if we learn about an evolutionary account for males' promiscuity ("spread your seeds" hypothesis) vs. a social constructivist one? How are we affected if we suddenly find out that we have a gene associated with alcoholism? What happens to women’s math performance once they learn of a genetic (vs. experiential) explanation for men’s alleged superior math abilities? These questions have been recently addressed in some of my studies. However, they represent only the tip of the iceberg in this line of research with relevant questions that address ethnic and racial identity, health communications, genetic counselling, genes-by-environment interactions, and other issues still necessitate empirical evaluations.

Additional information

HDR Inherent Requirements

In addition to the academic requirements set out in the Science Postgraduate Handbook, you may be required to satisfy a number of inherent requirements to complete this degree. Example of inherent requirement may include:

- Confidential disclosure and registration of a disability that may hinder your performance in your degree;
- Confidential disclosure of a pre-existing or current medical condition that may hinder your performance in your degree (e.g. heart disease, pace-maker, significant immune suppression, diabetes, vertigo, etc.);
- Ability to perform independently and/or with minimal supervision;
- Ability to undertake certain physical tasks (e.g. heavy lifting);
- Ability to undertake observatory, sensory and communication tasks;
- Ability to spend time at remote sites (e.g. One Tree Island, Narrabri and Camden);
- Ability to work in confined spaces or at heights;
- Ability to operate heavy machinery (e.g. farming equipment);
- Hold or acquire an Australian driver’s licence;
- Hold a current scuba diving license;
- Hold a current Working with Children Check;
- Meet initial and ongoing immunisation requirements (e.g. Q-Fever, Vaccinia virus, Hepatitis, etc.)

You must consult with your nominated supervisor regarding any identified inherent requirements before completing your application.

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Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is 1616

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