Scientists say "female intuition" may begin in womb
Exposure to testosterone in the womb may predispose people to either a more intuitive or reflexive mindset as an adult, according to a new study.
Scientists from the University of Granada, the Barcelona Pompeu Fabra University and the Middlesex University of London focused on the effects of prenatal testosterone exposure on intuitive thought—defined as the processing of information automatically and unconsciously, requiring little cognitive effort and sometimes referred to as “female intuition.” The researchers recruited more than 600 students from the University of Granada Faculty of Economics and Studies.
First, in order to determine how much testosterone the students were exposed to in the womb, the researchers used a method called the second-to-fourth digit ratio, which works by dividing the length of the forefinger by the length of the ring finger on the same hand. Researchers said that this method is a widely accepted marker for prenatal testosterone exposure, and it is understood that the lower the ratio, the greater the amount of prenatal testosterone exposure and the less intuitive the cerebral disposition. Men tend to have a lower average second-to-fourth digit ratio and therefore are less intuitive, researchers said.
The study’s participants then took a cognitive reflection test (CRT). In order to score well on a CRT, the test taker must be able to recognize that the first answer that jumps into his or her head is incorrect, and then override the intuitive response with one based on more reflection. Previous studies have shown that men generally score better on a CRT because they are more likely than women to respond in a reflexive way, rather than in an intuitive way.
The results, published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, found that the women who had a lower—or more “masculine”—digital ratio than their female counterparts performed as well as the men did on the CRT. The findings suggest that women in particular who have relatively high prenatal exposure to testosterone may be predisposed to having less intuition and a more reflexive mindset, the researchers concluded.