Exploring Kuhn’s Concept of a “Scientific Paradigm”: The Case of the “XYY Hypothesis”

By Roi Shani, Sky Gross and Micheal Y. Barilan.

Published by The Technology Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

In 1965 a English geneticist published a theory according to which men with the XYY karyotypes are prone to criminal aggression. For the first time in history a specific genetic trait was linked deterministically to human behavior.
Although the “XYY hypothesis” was supported by some observational studies and reports, it was received enthusiastically by many experts and by the lay public. In some places inmates were given “treatment” for the condition.
However, accumulating public pressure brought about the largest prospective study of XYY children was abandoned in 1975. Today the hypothesis is considered neither valid nor ethical.
In this article we approach the rise and fall of the XYY hypothesis in the light of Thomas Kuhn’s notion of “paradigms” in science.
It is argued that probably due to its dealings with human behavior, clinical practice and vulnerable populations certain features of a Kuhnian paradigm do not apply to the XYY hypothesis.

Keywords: Genetics and Behavior, Aggression

The International Journal of Technology, Knowledge and Society, Volume 6, Issue 6, pp.47-56. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 619.491KB).

Roi Shani

PhD Student, Department of Medical Education, Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel

I am PhD student in Tel Aviv University in the Dept. of Medical Education. My research takes an interdisciplinary approach to the XYY syndrome research in Germany during the 1960-70s. I draw on historical, sociological, and bioethical theory in order to study this phenomenon. This research builds on my MA thesis, which examines the role of ethical criticism as a factor within the wave of censure leading to the dissolution of the theory in the United States between 1964-1978.

Sky Gross

Tel Aviv University, Israel

Dr. Micheal Y. Barilan

Senior Lecturer, Department of Medical Education, Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel


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