The Science of Testosterone || Carole Hooven

March 9, 2023

Today we welcome Dr. Carole Hooven. For the past six years, she served as a lecturer and co-director of undergraduate studies at Harvard’s department of Human Evolutionary Biology. She has received numerous teaching awards, and her popular Hormones and Behavior class was named one of the Harvard Crimson’s “top ten tried and true.” Currently, Dr. Hooven has moved to the Psychology department where she works as an associate at Steven Pinker’s lab. Her latest book is called T: The Story of Testosterone, the Hormone that Dominates and Divides Us.

In this episode, I talked to Dr. Carole Hooven about the science of testosterone. Why do males have higher rates of physical violence, take on more risk, and desire more sexual partners? Dr. Hooven’s research points to testosterone as the answer. Although sex differences may stem from biology, variations in behavior may be better explained by genetics interacting with culture. We also touch on the topics of evolutionary biology, gender dysphoria, gender-affirming care, and academic freedom.

Website: carolehooven.com

Twitter: @hoovlet


  • Dr. Carole’s background and expertise
  • Sex differences in mental rotation
  • How hormones work
  • The uses and effects of testosterone
  • Testosterone, risk, and violence
  • Genetic and cultural differences
  • Trans women’s athletic advantages
  • Let scientists conduct research
  • Side effects of puberty blockers
  • Evidence-informed view of transitioning
  • There is no trans phenotype
  • The TERFs vs trans debates
  • Suppression of academic freedom
  • Untangle science from politics
  • Can we modify our chromosomes?

3 Responses to “The Science of Testosterone || Carole Hooven”

  1. Kelli Huber says:

    Hello Scott just listened to the poscast with Carol Hooven. You asked for trans experience and here is mine with the podcast. The people who take the evolutionary biologist approach to trans issues, especially evolutionary biologists, I understand their desire to get the science correct for the health and safety of all people but the stance that biological sex is who you are when it comes to whether you are a man or woman is scary to me. This is a battle I experienced in my own self about who I am. I struggled for 40 years to ignore the gravitational pull of transition, but I sought scientific help from medical professionals and transitioned into a happier personal existence. Now I know my genetics and secondary sex characteristics made me appear male when I was born but I would like science to not just test the biology but test the entirety of the human experience including the happiness, satisfaction, feeling of truth that comes from transition.
    I have only truly experienced this from my own perspective and have seen many trans people report the same to me. Please don’t ignore this truth. Please don’t refer to me as a biological male. Please refer to me as a woman who experienced transition and was born with male characteristics. I also don’t want to hear your sob stories about not being able to speak about this issue and being ridiculed for it.
    Trans people, including myself, have lost more than current any curre6 biologist who speak out against trans peoples extistance could ever imagine. Taking a stance on things in this world has ramifications and I’m sorry for that but the point is trans people are significantly mistreated in all aspects of life. Think before you speak and know the entire subject before introducing your knowledge.
    It’s scary to here that my truth is not real and based solely on the biological body I was given.
    I’m saddened by this world and fear of people not being what others think we should be. So tired. We are not hurting people by being ourselves in this world, the world is hurting us and has for a long time.
    Please consider this. People on the autistic spectrum have no proof they are on the spectrum but as we know their behavior is clearly noted and can but assisted by allowing them the correct treatments and daily approaches to life to make their lives good. Just cuz science hasn’t emphatically proven that autism is an actual identifiable biological manifestation doesn’t mean we ignore the need to help those people be the best people they can be. That is no different with trans people. Please stop using sex as a taboo thing. Being who I am is real and being who I am today is the best person I could be. Thanks for trying to have a good discussion but please also learn the negative reaction than can come from discllussing this topic in a particular way.

    • J Davis says:

      As a cis woman with a trans child I completely agree with everything you say Kelli. It was very clear that Dr. Hooven profoundly misunderstands the trans experience and to hear her misrepresent the evidence that exists especially regarding trans youth. There are so many errors and misunderstandings in what she said – profound, fundamental errors. Trans children are not simply gay, and there is research out there that clearly shows gender supportive care is the best option. Preventing a trans child from expressing their gender doesn’t change it, it just makes them miserable

    • Matt says:

      I think most people take a Joe Rogan like approach of treating trans people with love and kindness, respecting gender identity and using gender confirming pronouns etc.

      That said, at a certain point in society the interests of those who privilege gender ID bump into the interests of those who privilege physical sex. Sometimes gender ID can take precedence sometimes physical sex takes precedence depending on the specifics of the circumstance. To insist that society should permanently privilege either perspective is authoritarian.

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