Exploring Kuhn's concept of a "Scientific Paradigm": The case of the "XYY Hypothesis"

Roi Shani, Sky Gross, Micheal Y. Barilan

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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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-55
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Technology, Knowledge and Society
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2010


  • Aggression
  • Genetics and behavior


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