Direct-to-Consumer Racial Admixture Tests and Beliefs About Essential Racial Differences

Jo C. Phelan, Bruce G. Link, Sarah Zelner, Lawrence H. Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although at first relatively disinterested in race, modern genomic research has increasingly turned attention to racial variations. We examine a prominent example of this focus-direct-to-consumer racial admixture tests-and ask how information about the methods and results of these tests in news media may affect beliefs in racial differences. The reification hypothesis proposes that by emphasizing a genetic basis for race, thereby reifying race as a biological reality, the tests increase beliefs that whites and blacks are essentially different. The challenge hypothesis suggests that by describing differences between racial groups as continua rather than sharp demarcations, the results produced by admixture tests break down racial categories and reduce beliefs in racial differences. A nationally representative survey experiment (N = 526) provided clear support for the reification hypothesis. The results suggest that an unintended consequence of the genomic revolution may be to reinvigorate age-old beliefs in essential racial differences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)296-318
Number of pages23
JournalSocial Psychology Quarterly
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2014


  • genomic research
  • media impact
  • racial attitudes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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