: Unexplored risk in the application of behavioural genetics to human learning and embryo selection

  • Eric Joyce

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Education (EdD)


Some leading behavioural geneticists propose the design of education around universal DNA testing. Their research and advocacy, referred to here as edugenics, revolves around the study of human genetic material in order to predict individual learning predispositions. This has attracted high-level UK government interest. The historical lineage of such scholarship runs from the first half of the 20th century when intelligence theory, genetics and eugenics were closely linked; through an apparent epistemological division between scientists and non-scientists; to later 20th century and early 21st century scientific ambiguity around issues such as race.

This thesis takes a long historical view. Its perspective is liberal but it employs both critical theory and critical race theory to help expose assumptions about race veiled in the edugenics literature. It explores themes of scientism, authorial gamesmanship and media amplification. Two devices employed by some geneticists to evade the charge of scientific racism are explored. It is suggested that the primary intended application of edugenics may be as a technology of embryo selection, where related products appear close to market. These devices, it is argued, do not of themselves invalidate edugenics research, but they do present unexposed risk to policymakers.
Date of Award24 Mar 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorHugh Lauder (Supervisor) & Arif Naveed (Supervisor)


  • Edugenics
  • Genetics
  • Behavioural
  • education
  • Ethics

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