Where Do Cultural Tastes Come From? Genes, Environments, or Experiences

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Theories in sociology argue that family background and individual experiences shape cultural tastes and participation. Yet, we do not know the relative importance of each explanation or the extent to which family background operates via shared genes or shared environments. In this article, we use new data on same-sex monozygotic and dizygotic twins from Denmark to estimate the total impact of family background (genetic and environmental) and individual experiences on highbrow and lowbrow tastes and participation and on omnivorousness in music and reading. We find that family background explains more than half of the total variance in cultural tastes and participation and in omnivorousness. Moreover, family background operates mainly via shared genes, with shared environments shaping cultural tastes to some extent, but not cultural participation. Our findings support theories claiming that family background is instrumental in shaping cultural tastes and participation but highlight the relevance of distinguishing genetic and environmental aspects of family background.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSociological Science
Pages (from-to)252-274
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright: c 2022 The Author(s). This open-access article has been published under a Creative Commons Attribution License, which allows unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction, in any form, as long as the original author and source have been credited.

    Research areas

  • cultural omnivorousness, Cultural tastes, environments, family background, genes, twins

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