Handbook of Biology and Politics
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Handbook of Biology and Politics

Edited by Steven A. Peterson and Albert Somit

The study of biology and politics (or biopolitics) has gained considerable currency in recent years, as articles on the subject have appeared in mainstream journals and books on the subject have been well received. The literature has increased greatly since the 1960s and 1970s, when this specialization first made an appearance. This volume assesses the contributions of biology to political science. Chapters focus on general biological approaches to politics, biopolitical contributions to mainstream areas within political science, and linkages between biology and public policy. The volume provides readers with a comprehensive introduction to the subject.
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Chapter 15: Mass political behavior and biology

Gregg R. Murray


The objective of this chapter is to introduce readers to research that addresses the effects of biological forces on behaviors central to democracy: voting, forming political opinions, and cognitively engaging with public issues. It provides an overview of the literature on mass political behavior and behavioral genetics. This includes the substantial body of heritability studies (for example, twin studies) and the small but growing number of genomic studies (for example, genome-wide association studies). Then it introduces political neuroscience, which has been driven by the emergence of fMRI scans and is poised to explore a vast and mostly untouched behavioral territory. Next it reviews biological perspectives on mass political behavior that have not received as much attention but appear to be well-positioned to grow: evolution, biological signals and cues, behavioral endocrinology, and health status. Finally, it speculates about how biologically informed research can help scholars more thoroughly understand mass political behavior.

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