Social Science and Genetics

Course content

The objective of the thematic course ‘Social Science and Genetics’ is to introduce the student to the research field of sociogenomics and research in the role of nature and nurture in social science.


The course is structured around three main topics:

  1. 1) Relevance
    1. a)Why even care about heritability and genetics in social science?
  2. 2) History: The three phases of sociogenomic research
    1. a) Indirect study of genetics: Twin- and sibling-studies
    2. b) The molecular genomic era and direct study of genetics: The candidate-gene approach
    3. c) The molecular genomic era and direct study of genetics: The polygenic approach
  3. 3) Ethics of sociogenomics: Pitfalls, challenges, misuse, and misunderstandings of genetic insights, for example
    1. a) Genetic determinism
    2. b) From eugenics to gene-editing
    3. c) The #richwhitepeople bias in sociogenomic research
    4. d) Et cetera

The course will give the student an overview of the field of sociogenomics, insights in how scientists have practically worked with genetics in social science, and introduce the student to the ethical challenges in the field.


Elective Course


Course package (MSc 2015):
Welfare, inequality and mobility

Learning outcome

By the end of this course, the student will be able to:



  • Describe the historical development in sociogenomics  and account for the three main eras of sociogenomic research
  • Summarize the main benefits and challenges of the three sociogenomic eras
  • Summarize the ethical challenges of sociogenomic research in the past and present



  • Analyze and evaluate sociogenomic studies
  • Identify strengths and weaknesses of sociogenomic research and studies of sociological outcomes



  • Understand and discuss the role of nature and nurture in social science research
  • Critically discuss sociogenomic studies and claims about the contribution of nature and nurture in public debates, as well as the ethical challenges surrounding sociogenomic research
  • Communicate the role and interplay between nature and nurture in social science to other social scientists and non-specialists
  • Better understand the arguments of - and participate in interdisciplinary collaborations with - colleagues from other, more natural science related, fields

Class instruction - I am organizing the course as lessons of two-hour lectures combined with two hours of student activity, e.g. student presentation or group exercises

The main literature of the course consists of chapters from books such as:

  • Conley, Dalton and Jason Fletcher. 2017. “The Genome Factor”. Princeton University Press. 

And empirical papers such as

  • Freese, Jeremy. 2018. “The Arrival of Social Science Genomics.” Contemporary Sociology 47(5):524–36.
  • Cesarini, David and Peter M. Visscher. 2017. “Genetics and Educational Attainment.” Npj Science of Learning 2(1):4.

It is highly recommended that the student have a basic understanding of correlations and basic regression models (linear regression models), such as those covered in the BA-courses in quantitative methods at Department of Sociology, University of Copenhagen.

Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)

I integrate the peer-feedback as peer-feedback on the presenting groups’ presentations and exercises.

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
A written take-home essay is defined as an assignment that addresses one or more questions. The exam is based on the course syllabus, i.e. the literature set by the teacher. The written take-home essay must be no longer than 10 pages. For group assignments, an extra 5 pages is added per additional student. Further details for this exam form can be found in the Curriculum and in the General Guide to Examinations at KUnet.
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Criteria for exam assessment

Please see the learning outcome.

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Exam
  • 60
  • Preparation
  • 118
  • Lectures
  • 28
  • English
  • 206