11:54 AM

Psychology Professor Published on Topic of Ancestry Tests and Racial Tolerance

By Zoee Simmons

Cal State San Marcos psychology professor Sasha Kimel has been published by the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, an American Psychological Association publication.

Kimel’s article, titled “Finding Your Roots: Do DNA Ancestry Tests Increase Racial (In)Tolerance?”, focuses on understanding if an individual’s opinions of other racial and ethnic groups can be impacted by the results of their own DNA ancestry test. Essentially, the goal of Kimel’s research and experiment was to understand the effect of knowing how genetically similar or different you are to someone.

Despite the popularity of DNA ancestry tests, with millions of customers each year, the results are regularly misunderstood and interpreted incorrectly. The ancestry results are frequently, yet falsely, assumed to illuminate one’s true racial and ethnic lineages.

“This tendency has led to significant public and scientific concern — and optimism — over the potentially far-reaching implications of this inference. Yet, whether DNA ancestry tests actually increase racial tolerance or, alternatively, intolerance has been largely untested,” Kimel writes in the paper.

During her experiment, Kimel gave real or bogus DNA ancestry test results to general and student populations of majority-group members in the United States to analyze the effects on factors including multiculturalism, essentialism and outgroup bias. After collecting and analyzing data, she found no clear indication of support for either hypothesis, meaning that “receiving DNA ancestry results appears not to impact feelings and attitudes about other racial and ethnic groups.”

Kimel's psychological research focuses on intergroup conflict and culture, drawing inspiration from her background in public policy and her experience working at the United Nations.

Before being hired by CSUSM in 2018, Kimel was a postdoctoral fellow and lecturer at Harvard University.

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