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biological determinism

Definition of Biological Determinism

(noun) The theory that all social phenomena are determined by biological factors such as genetics, not social or cultural influences.

Examples of Biological Determinism

  • The idea that certain ethnicities have a natural disposition to commit crime.
  • Women and men behave differently due to innate sex differences.

Biological Determinism Pronunciation

Pronunciation Usage Guide

Syllabification: bi·o·log·i·cal de·ter·min·ism

Audio Pronunciation

– American English
– British English

Phonetic Spelling

  • American English – /bie-uh-lAHj-i-kuhl di-tUHR-muh-niz-uhm/
  • British English – /bie-uh-lOj-i-kuhl di-tUHR-mi-ni-zuhm/

International Phonetic Alphabet

  • American English – /ˌbaɪəˈlɑʤɪkəl dɪˈtɜrməˌnɪzəm/
  • British English – /ˌbaɪəʊˈlɒʤɪkəl dɪˈtɜːmɪnɪzm/

Usage Notes

  • Plural: biological determinisms
  • Social determinism is the opposite of biological determinism, but both theories imply that individuals have little or no control their actions, bodies, or decisions.
  • Biological determinism has been used to explain crime, mental illness, patriarchy, and poverty or to defend eugenics and Social Darwinism.
  • Not to be confused with biological reductionism.
  • A type of determinism.
  • Also called:
    • biodeterminism (bio-determinism)
    • genetic determinism
  • A (noun) biological determinist views society (adverb) biological deterministically from a (adjective) biological deterministic perspective.

Related Quotation

Additional Information

Related Terms


Tarrant, Shira. 2009. Men and Feminism. Berkeley, CA: Seal Press.

Works Consulted

Andersen, Margaret L., and Howard Francis Taylor. 2011. Sociology: The Essentials. 6th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Bilton, Tony, Kevin Bonnett, Pip Jones, David Skinner, Michelle Stanworth, and Andrew Webster. 1996. Introductory Sociology. 3rd ed. London: Macmillan.

Griffiths, Heather, Nathan Keirns, Eric Strayer, Susan Cody-Rydzewski, Gail Scaramuzzo, Tommy Sadler, Sally Vyain, Jeff Bry, Faye Jones. 2016. Introduction to Sociology 2e. Houston, TX: OpenStax.

Random House Webster’s College Dictionary. 1997. New York: Random House.

Ravelli, Bruce, and Michelle Webber. 2016. Exploring Sociology: A Canadian Perspective. 3rd ed. Toronto: Pearson.

Shepard, Jon M. 2010. Sociology. 11th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Shepard, Jon M., and Robert W. Greene. 2003. Sociology and You. New York: Glencoe.

Wikipedia contributors. (N.d.) Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. (https://en.wikipedia.org/).

Cite the Definition of Biological Determinism

ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2014. “biological determinism.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved July 14, 2024 (https://sociologydictionary.org/biological-determinism/).

APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)

biological determinism. (2014). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from https://sociologydictionary.org/biological-determinism/

Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2014. “biological determinism.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed July 14, 2024. https://sociologydictionary.org/biological-determinism/.

MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)

“biological determinism.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2014. Web. 14 Jul. 2024. <https://sociologydictionary.org/biological-determinism/>.