Biological Determinism - Definition and Explanation

Biological Determinism – Definition and Explanation

Biological Determinism


This term refers to the belief that an individual’s behaviours, abilities, and social characteristics are primarily determined by their biological makeup, such as genetics or physiology. Biological Determinism suggests that aspects like race, gender, intelligence, and other traits are inherently fixed and unchangeable.

Understanding Biological Determinism:

Biological Determinism has long been used to justify societal inequalities and discrimination. It posits that certain groups are naturally predisposed to excel in specific areas, while others are inherently disadvantaged. For instance, historically, it has been argued that women are less suited for leadership roles due to supposed biological traits like emotional sensitivity or nurturing tendencies.


Consider the field of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). Biological Determinism has often been invoked to explain the underrepresentation of women in these fields. However, initiatives like mentorship programmes and gender-inclusive policies have shown that women are equally capable in STEM disciplines when provided with equitable opportunities.


In the journey towards building truly diverse, equitable, and inclusive spaces, it’s essential to recognise and challenge the influence of Biological Determinism. By promoting a narrative that celebrates the richness of human diversity and acknowledges the impact of societal structures, organisations can create environments where everyone can thrive, regardless of their biological characteristics.


Lewontin, R. C. (1983). Biological determinism. Tanner Lectures on Human Values, 4, 147-183.

Miller, E. M., & Costello, C. Y. (2001). The limits of biological determinism. American Sociological Review, 66(4), 592-598.

Graves Jr, J. L. (2015). Great is their sin: Biological determinism in the age of genomics. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 661(1), 24-50.

Ellison, G. T., & De Wet, T. (2018). Biological determinism. The International Encyclopedia of Biological Anthropology, 1-4.

Be impressively well informed

Get the very latest research intelligence briefings, video research briefings, infographics and more sent direct to you as they are published

Be the most impressively well-informed and up-to-date person around...

Powered by ConvertKit
Like what you see? Help us spread the word