Departmental Papers (ASC)

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To determine how three dimensions of genetic literacy (familiarity, skills, and factual knowledge) fit the hierarchy of knowledge outlined in E.M. Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovations to better conceptualize lay understandings of genomics.


A consumer panel representing the US adult population (N = 1016) completed an electronic survey in November 2013. Adjusting for education, we used correlations, principle components analysis, Mokken Scale tests, and linear regressions to assess how scores on the three genetic literacy sub-dimensions fit an ordered scale.


The three scores significantly loaded onto one factor, even when adjusting for education. Analyses revealed moderate strength in scaling (0.416, p<0.001) and a difficulty ordering that matched Rogers’ hierarchy (knowledge more difficult than skills, followed by familiarity). Skills scores partially mediated the association between familiarity and knowledge with a significant indirect effect (0.241, p<0.001).


We established an ordering in genetic literacy sub-dimensions such that familiarity with terminology precedes skills using information, which in turn precedes factual knowledge. This ordering is important to contextualizing previous findings, guiding measurement in future research, and identifying gaps in the understanding of genomics relevant to the demands of differing applications.

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This is an open access article, free of all copyright, and may be freely reproduced, distributed, transmitted, modified, built upon, or otherwise used by anyone for any lawful purpose. The work is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication.

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Date Posted: 19 February 2019

This document has been peer reviewed.