From The Character of Science

Popular culture and genetics; friend, foe or something more complex?

Jon's article in the European Journal of Medical Genetics special issue on genetic counselling draws on his doctoral research

Popular culture and genetics; friend, foe or something more complex?


1st May 2019


While many people enjoy popular culture, these transactional experiences may not translate into formal or academic learning about a subject. In education and science communication settings popular culture is often presented as a source of inaccurate information about science. Different publics are often positioned as, at best, undiscriminating consumers and at worst victims of distorted scientific information. We explore how people use their own knowledge and interests to engage with genetics. Here, data from family interviews are used to illustrate how participants draw on popular culture as a resource to engage with and articulate their beliefs about genetics. Using qualitative data from family interviews we describe two perspectives: first, popular culture represents a source of narratives and metaphors used for rhetorical purposes. Second participants used fictional narratives in more depth – as sense-making devices – allowing people to explore the moral and ethical implications of genetics. We argue that by utilising patients’ interests – such as popular culture – we can potentially enrich communication in a genetic counselling context.

Related Link:


Roberts J, Archer L, DeWitt J, Middleton A (2019) Popular culture and genetics; friend, foe or something more complex? European Journal of Medical Genetics, vol. 62, issue 5, pp 368–375, May

Available at