As of January 2023, I have moved to Harvard's psychology department, where I am an associate in the lab of Steven Pinker.
I earned my PhD at Harvard in 2004, and my dissertation research was focused on sex differences and testosterone. Since 2002 I've taught in the department of Human Evolutionary Biology (previously Biological Anthropology, first two years of teaching were as a graduate student in that department), and have also served in various advising positions, ultimately as the Co-Director of Undergraduate Studies. I have received numerous teaching awards, and my Hormones and Behavior class was named one of the Harvard Crimson's "top ten tried and true."
My book on testosterone and sex differences, T: The Story of Testosterone, the Hormone that Dominates and Divides Us, was published in the summer of 2021.
Longer bio, Starting with an excerpt from Chapter 1 of T:
My journey to Uganda wasn’t exactly a straight line. An interest in human behavior drove me to major in psychology in college. I enjoyed classes like Freud and Jung, Abnormal Psychology, and Personality and Individual Differences. But it wasn’t until my senior year that I had to restrain myself from jumping out of my seat, barely able to contain my excitement about the lecture material. I will never forget that course (Biological Psychology), the professor (Josephine Wilson), and the day she introduced me to neurons and neurotransmitters and how their actions and levels affect all kinds of behavior. I remember her standing tall, raising her outstretched arms above her head, and wiggling her fingers around to bring a neuron and its dendrites—little branches that communicate with other neurons—to life. A new, powerful way to understand the origins of behavior was opening up for me, and it felt tremendously satisfying. I knew I wanted more of that feeling, but graduation loomed and I had no job.
These experiences intensified my desire to find the deepest, most powerful explanations for human behavior and converged on one question: how has evolution shaped human nature? Then I read the book that suggested a path I could take to pursue my questions: Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence. It wasn’t violence, specifically, that drew me in; it was the approach that the two authors used to investigate large questions about how we got to be the way we are. I decided that I wanted to do what the lead author [Richard Wrangham] did, which was to study chimpanzees to learn more about ourselves and our evolutionary origins. So I quit my job and applied to graduate school.
I do not recommend doing things in that order.
And that’s how I found myself in the forest on that January day in 1999, catching chimp urine and watching a big male beat up a smaller female while she tried to protect her kids. Their interaction had dramatically exemplified the contrasting patterns of chimp behavior that had already captivated my interest—relatively peaceful, nurturing females and sex-and hierarchy-obsessed aggressive males.
The experience of observing wild chimpanzees in Uganda solidified my desire to research the biological basis of human sex differences. It was obvious to me that culture is only part of the explanation. I began my PhD at Harvard in the fall of 1999, defended my dissertation in 2004, and stayed at Harvard to teach and advise undergrads in Human Evolutionary Biology.
Since T was published in the summer of 2021, I've been involved in some disagreements about language in science education and academic freedom. I recently published an article about my experiences, as part of a Special Section of the Archives of Sexual Behavior. Also see this commentary by Harry Lewis, Harvard professor of Computer Science, and this by Jerry Coyne, Emeritus professor of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago.
I live in Cambridge, Massachusetts with my husband Alex, son Griffin and cat Lola. I love watching birds, running and biking, Belgian beer, salty snacks and freedom of speech. You can find me on Twitter at @hoovlet, and I'll figure out Instagram and start posting more at carole.hooven.