In Brief

Researchers warn of inaccuracies when using race as a proxy for biological factors and call for more exacting measures in a special issue of the American Psychologist (AP) devoted to "Genes, Race and Psychology in the Genome Era," (Vol. 60, No. 1). In the issue, 28 psychologists and scientists from other fields contributed 11 papers on the debated link between intelligence and race, racial health disparities and on measuring race that include discussions of emerging genetic evidence about race and the dangers of using race as a proxy for biological factors.

New and sophisticated methods for studying the relationship between human genetic differences, the environment, health and behavior, all made possible by the completion of the Human Genome Project, have made traditional race-based measurements of human differences obsolete, according to numerous authors writing in the AP special issue.

In a series of articles, leading researchers discuss racial health disparities and the controversial area of intelligence, while also carefully outlining specific instances and ways in which researchers should measure or use race. According to the authors, such research requires a careful examination of both environmental and genetic factors, as well as conceptually sound and methodologically rigorous measures of race at a level not yet universal in all research. The special issue also looks at the construct of race in the 21st century, as well as the historical use of the construct in science, including issues of new genetic markers for race versus self-reported race, racial versus ancestral identity, racial disparities, and the interaction between genes and the environment. In separate articles, other authors discuss the long-standing and controversial examination of race and intelligence. The backdrop for each of the articles is the high expectation that the completion of the Human Genome Project will lead to dramatic advances in our understanding of health and behavior.

"This special issue takes a comprehensive look at the concept of race and its usefulness in the genome age," says Norman B. Anderson, PhD, editor of the American Psychologist and CEO of APA. "It reports on the potential research opportunities afforded by new genetic technologies, while also addressing the ethical and legal complexities presented by these new technologies and the information they produce. Furthermore, it acknowledges the controversial role that psychology has played in past theories about the impact of race on intelligence."