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date: 22 October 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Genetic influences are often misinterpreted to mean that an individual with a particular genotype is inevitably predisposed to engage in a given behavior or that genetic influences operate outside of human agency and social context. This chapter undertakes a qualitative investigation of a genetically informed (MAOA) sample to illustrate the critical differences between population estimates and individual accountability. The sample includes those whose lives have revolved around violence (e.g., gang members) and those whose lives are committed to peace (e.g., Buddhist monks). It is found that genotype alone cannot predict any one individual’s social behaviors, and it is argued that any decisions or legal precedents targeted toward predicting how a specific individual may act based on his or her DNA sequence require a more nuanced appreciation of how social factors, genetic dispositions, and personal experience intertwine in the context of human agency.

Keywords: DNA, MAO-A, genetic influence, behavioral difference, life history interviews, qualitative, social factors, human agency, physical aggression, personal experience

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