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Brain Storm

Brain Storm

The Flaws in the Science of Sex Differences

Rebecca M. Jordan-Young

ISBN 9780674058798

Publication date: 01/07/2011

Rebecca Jordan-Young

Female and male brains are different, thanks to hormones coursing through the brain before birth. That’s taught as fact in psychology textbooks, academic journals, and bestselling books. And these hardwired differences explain everything from sexual orientation to gender identity, to why there aren’t more women physicists or more stay-at-home dads.

In this compelling book, takes on the evidence that sex differences are hardwired into the brain. Analyzing virtually all published research that supports the claims of “human brain organization theory,” Jordan-Young reveals how often these studies fail the standards of science. Even if careful researchers point out the limits of their own studies, other researchers and journalists can easily ignore them because brain organization theory just sounds so right. But if a series of methodological weaknesses, questionable assumptions, inconsistent definitions, and enormous gaps between ambiguous findings and grand conclusions have accumulated through the years, then science isn’t scientific at all.

Elegantly written, this book argues passionately that the analysis of gender differences deserves far more rigorous, biologically sophisticated science. “The evidence for hormonal sex differentiation of the human brain better resembles a hodge-podge pile than a solid structure…Once we have cleared the rubble, we can begin to build newer, more scientific stories about human development.”


  • I'm the ideal test reader for Brain Storm. I've always had reservations about the sweeping claims that there are fundamental differences in the organization of male and female brains, caused by prenatal hormones. But the sheer number of published studies that seemed to give incontrovertible evidence led me to assume that the theory was sound. This elegantly written and fascinating book has changed my mind. Jordan-Young's comprehensive analysis of the array of conflicting results and methodological weaknesses shows that we have closed the book on this topic far too soon. Her warning is one that all scientists can agree with: Careful!

    —Lisa Diamond, author of Sexual Fluidity


  • 2011, Joint winner of the Distinguished Publication Award


  • Rebecca M. Jordan-Young is a sociomedical scientist and Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Barnard College, Columbia University. She is the author of Brain Storm: The Flaws in the Science of Sex Differences, which won the Distinguished Book Award from the Association for Women in Psychology, and was a Guggenheim Fellow.

Book Details

  • Harvard University Press

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