Indirect Genetic Causes - Kate Lynch (USyd)

Speaker: Kate Lynch

Abstract: Indirect genetic effects occur when genes exert their influence on traits via the environment. Sometimes this occurs when individuals modify their own environment, such as having a genetic propensity to seek out educational resources. Other times people impose environmental circumstances on others, such as denying someone resources based on their (genetically caused) appearance or behaviour. In both cases genes indirectly lead to phenotypic outcomes, yet causal interpretation of the two types of cases differs amongst geneticists and philosophers. Appeals to pragmatic and psychological factors have been invoked to explain these differences in interpretation. I suggest an additional reason: Implicit environmental confounding. I argue that in cases where causation is unintuitive, it is because the examples represent a situation analogous to a confounded experiment where background variables systematically differ between groups. Drawing attention to background variables raises questions about appropriate variable description, and sheds light on the relationship between different kinds of gene-environment interplay.

Please note that these seminars are open to the public and in person only.

Date & time

Thu 20 Oct 2022, 2:00pm to 3:30pm


Auditorium, Level 1, RSSS building, 146 Ellery Crescent, Acton, ACT 2601


Kate Lynch (USyd)


Sarita Rosenstock


Updated:  20 October 2022/Responsible Officer:  Head of School/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications