Population level metrics such as Body Mass Index (BMI) or statistical correlation using epidemiology don't do much to inform individual experience, and psychology faces the same issue. Surveys can tell us whatever surveys can tell us about what a particular group of people taking surveys think, but there is a reason that no polling group does well with Congressional districts that are contentious. It simply doesn't work. As we learned when we first believed the anti-vaccine problem was a fringe religious issue, what people claim on surveys is not their behavior.(1)

That is why there is argument about the psychosocial impact of genetic testing; media can find someone helped or harmed entirely based on what the editor wanted to assign. The only agreement in surveys is that genetic testing can have some kind of impact. If you don't understand relative and absolute risk, or the difference between a hazard and risk (2) you could be terrified about nothing.(3)

Though media will continue to trot out scaremongering churnalism pieces the more thoughtful behavioral community is acknowledging that the current approach - respond to bizarre incidents with sweeping policy - is not constructive. With so many variables some centralized policy is going to help no one and create unnecessary concern. When Angelina Jolie chose to have a prophylactic double mastectomy in 2013 upon learning she had a mutation of the BRCA1 gene and a greater risk of cancer, she made an informed choice, but in most cases things aren't so simple, and it led to a lot of unnecessary surgeries by others who suddenly believed a double mastectomy was the best treatment for breast cancer. They had not made an informed choice at all.

We don't need more of that. Broad-based policies instead of considering individual factors and leaving it to doctors and counselors is a bad idea. A new Hastings Center Report, “Looking for the Psychosocial Impacts of Genetic Information”, is distilled from a Columbia University panel last year on the topic.  In nine essays it covers what has gone so far and then three are skeptical of concerns about psychosocial implications and three believe more caution is warranted. There are no answers, which frustrates the public, who choose to be "strategic essentialists" and don't want to spend $80 for research they believe their tax dollars already subsidized, but sometimes it's better to have no answer than the wrong one, like in the case of people proactively having surgery without any real risk of cancer at all or getting depressed because you have an ApoE4 gene that is statistically linked to a higher chance for getting Alzheimer’s disease in the future.


(1) The problem in America turned out to be the coastal United States, not religious people in Alabama or Mississippi, where vaccines exemption neared 100 percent. California alone had more philosophical exemptions than the entire rest of the US combined. But they did not claim to be anti-vaccine on surveys, they call themselves pro-choice about vaccines, and they were pro-choice against choosing vaccines, to such an extent that some schools in the coast had vaccine rates under 30 percent. The state had to pass a law to get them to vaccinate their kids, at which point the wealthy elites got pediatricians to claim their children needed a medical exemption.

(2) Like apparently every epidemiologist the International Agency for Research on Cancer or the US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences recruits to advance their beliefs that chemicals and food are wrong.

(3) Weedkillers, BPA, vaccines, natural gas, you name it and someone is claiming it will kill us all. They are always stumped by the same simple four-word question; where are the bodies?