Social science genetics is concerned with understanding whether, how and why genetic differences between human beings are linked to differences in behaviours and socioeconomic outcomes. Our review discusses the goals, methods, challenges and implications of this research endeavour. We survey how the recent developments in genetics are beginning to provide social scientists with a powerful new toolbox they can use to better understand environmental effects, and we illustrate this with several substantive examples. Furthermore, we examine how medical research can benefit from genetic insights into social-scientific outcomes and vice versa. Finally, we discuss the ethical challenges of this work and clarify several common misunderstandings and misinterpretations of genetic research on individual differences.