Defining Genes Using "Blueprint" Versus "Instruction" Metaphors: Effects for Genetic Determinism, Response Efficacy, and Perceived Control

Roxanne Parrott, Rachel A. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

16 Scopus citations

Abstract

Evidence supports mixed attributions aligned with personal and/or clinical control and gene expression for health in this era of genomic science and health care. We consider variance in these attributions and possible relationships to individual mind sets associated with essentialist beliefs that genes determine health versus threat beliefs that genes increase susceptibility for disease and severity linked to gene-environment interactions. Further, we contribute to theory and empirical research to evaluate the use of metaphors to define genes. Participants (N = 324) read a message that varied the introduction by providing a definition of genes that used either an "instruction" metaphor or a "blueprint" metaphor. The "instruction" metaphor compared to the "blueprint" metaphor promoted stronger threat perceptions, which aligned with both belief in the response efficacy of genetic research for health and perceived behavioral control linked to genes and health. The "blueprint" metaphor compared to the "instruction" metaphor promoted stronger essentialist beliefs, which aligned with more intense positive regard for the efficacy of genetic research and human health. Implications for health communicators include societal effects aligned with stigma and discrimination that such findings portend.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)137-146
Number of pages10
JournalHealth Communication
Volume29
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • Communication

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