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Brain Storm: The Flaws in the Science of Sex Differences Paperback – August 29, 2011
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This important and intellectually powerful book shows that a dominant paradigm in human sex differences is held together by chewing gum. By painstakingly examining a large and contradictory literature, Jordan-Young shows the weakness of the brain organization hypothesis. She has so much respect for the scientific method that she can hope that reason and integrity will help create a better, more empirically sound theory of sex differences, and she reaches out to scientists to offer a glimpse of a new psychobiology. (Anne Fausto-Sterling, author of Myths of Gender)
This is a book of remarkable depth that sets a new standard for clear scientific thinking about complex behavioral traits, as well as for interdisciplinary scholarship. Rebecca Jordan-Young charts a fresh new course through the morass of questions about gender and sexuality with enviable humor, fairness, and intellectual power. (Evan Balaban, McGill University)
Brain Storm poses the most comprehensive challenge yet to the claim that prenatal hormone exposure permanently structures the brain to be either masculine or feminine, and does so in a highly engaging, fair-minded narrative that is a delight to read. (Stephen J. Ceci and Wendy M. Williams, Cornell University)
Jordan-Young has written a stunning book that demolishes most of the science associated with the dominant paradigm of the development of sex and gender identity, behavior, and orientation. The current paradigm, brain organization theory, proposes: "Because of early exposure to different sex hormones, males and females have different brains"; and these hormones also create "gay" and "straight" brains. Jordan-Young interviewed virtually every major researcher in the field and reviewed hundreds of published scientific papers. Her conclusion: "Brain organization theory is little more than an elaboration of longstanding folk tales about antagonistic male and female essences and how they connect to antagonistic male and female natures." She explains, in exquisite detail, the flaws in the underlying science, from experimental designs that make no statistical sense to "conceptually sloppy" definitions of male and female sexuality, contradictory results, and the social construction of normality. Her conclusion that the patterns we see are far more complicated than previously believed and due to a wider range of variables will shake up the research community and alter public perception. (Publishers Weekly (starred review) 2010-07-12)
A carefully researched volume that exposes the problems with the widely accepted idea that gender differences are created by certain hormones in the womb. (Alex Spanko Boston Globe 2010-09-21)
What Jordan-Young's analysis uncovered is by turns fascinating and appalling...This book is not only a tonic, it's also full of scientific insights presented in plain, intelligent prose--an absorbing read, if you've ever wondered what was going on in the secret parts of your attic. (Sara Lippincott Los Angeles Times 2010-10-03)
It was with appreciation verging on glee that I read Barnard professor Rebecca Jordan-Young's devastatingly smart and definitive critique: Brain Storm: The Flaws in the Science of Sex Differences. Jordan-Young argues that the science of prenatal hormones, gender, and the mind "better resembles a hodgepodge pile than a solid structure." And she knows of what she speaks. An expert on measures and study designs, Jordan-Young has spent the last 13 years combing the literature on brain organization, unpacking assumptions, questioning methods and statistical practices, holding one paper up against another. She stresses that fetal hormones must matter to the brain--somehow. But after picking apart more than 400 studies that try to understand the genesis of particular psychological sex differences (real or supposed), she concludes that fetal T looks like an awfully anemic explanation...After decades of determined research, if robust links between prenatal hormones and "male" or "female" minds really exist, shouldn't we see those links across lots of different kinds of studies? This matters because the obsession with prenatal T can easily become a distraction. It can make us forget how much gender norms have changed--think of all those female accountants, lawyers, and doctors who weren't around 50 or even 30 years ago--and how remarkably similar men's and women's brains and minds actually are. All this unwarranted hammering away at difference (and its putative explanations) causes real trouble, too. As a growing body of research shows, cues that foreground gender and bring stereotypes to mind can dampen men's performance on tests of social sensitivity, women's scores on math tests, and women's stated interest in quantitative pursuits. Jordan-Young has done an enormous amount of work to untangle the gender claims. We ought to read her, cite her, thank her. And then, let's move on. (Amanda Schaffer Slate 2010-10-21)
Jordan-Young ferret[s] out exaggerated, unreplicated claims and other silliness regarding research on sex differences. The book [is] strongest in exposing research conclusions that are closer to fiction than science. (Diane F. Halpern Science 2010-12-03)
Exhaustively analyses every relevant study on hormonal sex differentiation of the human brain, and argues that they are riddled with weaknesses, inconsistencies and ambiguity. It's a clarion call for better science on the subject. (Madeleine Bunting The Guardian 2010-11-14)
In her exhaustive survey of the literature, Jordan-Young discovers a hodge-podge of tiny samples, inadequate controls, conflicting data and extravagant conclusions...By meticulously revealing the flawed research behind brain organization theory, she opens the way to a non-hierarchical study of sex difference that will be both more fruitful for science and less damaging for society. (Hilary Rose and Steven Rose London Review of Books 2011-04-28)
Jordan-Young's detailed and exhaustive critique of brain organization research is quite welcome. (Vernon Rosario Gay and Lesbian Review 2011-07-01)
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Top Customer Reviews
Perhaps most striking is the fact that virtually none of the studies uses the same definition (or any definition at all) for words like "feminine" and "masculine." When pressed, researchers and scientists insist that such concepts are "common sense" and require no explicit definitions.Read more ›
Jordan-Young seems to have written this evaluation in hopes of pointing out these flaws to both a popular audience and to brain researchers themselves. It's been disappointing then, to see the reviews this book has received in the scientific journals. Basically, the response has been to agree that Joran-Young has pointed out many serious flaws in the research, but to then go on and assert "Well, there are *other* studies that I like, and Jordan-Young does not discuss those. So overall, we should continue to believe in these sex/sexual orientation differences." OK, well, I'm not a brain researcher myself, just an interested observer, so *perhaps* they're right. BUT, what about all the junk science that's there? Why not be concerned about it? Why not say "Whoa! Look at all this junk! How did all this get here?Read more ›
I have taught Psychology of Women, Critical Thinking and other psychology courses for many years. I have been dismayed at the books claiming to present the research on gender comparisons, but in fact being highly selective about what they choose to report (their side only),talking only biology and ignoring social psychology (like the book "The Female Brain")and other cheap tricks. Jordan-Young avoids selection bias by examining every study done on the subject of brain organization, leaving nothing out. Many of her criticisms are familiar to me and others who teach gender studies but her synthesis and conclusions are brilliantly her own. She takes the problems and criticisms a giant leap forward.
This book is refreshing because it is neither diatribe nor superficial, unlike so many books that purport to be about gender differences.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Excellent, meticulous research and well written. Rebecca M. Jordan-Young clearly, concisely discusses the science of prenatal hormones, gender, and the mind. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Furiosa
This is a most enlightening book which gives a comprehensive overview of the research on brain organization. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Laura
Brain Storm is a brilliant tour-de-force of analysis of the scientific literature on the organizational/activational (aka prenatal hormone) theory that reigns in neuroscience and... Read morePublished 15 months ago by Michael J. Murphy
brilliant book revealing M/F stereotypes embedded within scientific studiesPublished 20 months ago by Sheila Debretteville
This book is a scholarly masterpiece written for popular enjoyment. Instead of taking cheap shots at flaws in individual studies, the author interprets each study as charitably as... Read morePublished on July 5, 2013 by Dukhat
Anyone interested in gender studies should read this book. Had to get it for class, but ended up really enjoying itPublished on December 9, 2012 by Danielle
I just read Delusions of Gender (which was excellent!!) and thought this would be comparable...but the other one was infinitely better. Read morePublished on November 28, 2012 by S. Scott
I've given this version 4 stars for the Kindle implementation because the footnotes are not "active". Read morePublished on December 25, 2011 by J. Fried
This is the best book on sex/brain studies written in the past 10 years. It is a must read for everyday folks and academics alike.Published on November 21, 2011 by S. E. Perry