Linking Genes and Political Orientations: Testing the Cognitive Ability as Mediator Hypothesis

Sven Oskarsson, David Cesarini, Christopher T. Dawes, James H. Fowler, Magnus Johannesson, Patrik K.E. Magnusson, Jan Teorell

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Recent research has demonstrated that genetic differences explain a sizeable fraction of the variance in political orientations, but little is known about the pathways through which genes might affect political preferences. In this article, we use a uniquely assembled dataset of almost 1,000 Swedish male twin pairs containing detailed information on cognitive ability and political attitudes in order to further examine the genetic and environmental causes of political orientations. Our study makes three distinct contributions to our understanding of the etiology of political orientations: (1) we report heritability estimates across different dimensions of political ideology; (2) we show that cognitive ability and political orientations are related; and (3) we provide evidence consistent with the hypothesis that cognitive ability mediates part of the genetic influence on political orientations. These findings provide important clues about the nature of the complex pathways from molecular genetic variation to political orientations.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)649-665
    Number of pages17
    JournalPolitical Psychology
    Issue number6
    StatePublished - Dec 1 2015


    • Cognitive ability
    • Heritability
    • Political orientation

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Social Psychology
    • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
    • Clinical Psychology
    • Sociology and Political Science
    • Philosophy
    • Political Science and International Relations


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