“Female intuition could be linked to lower exposure to testosterone in women while in womb,” believe some European scientists, who found that women are “more intuitive” than men due to a biological component.
“So-called ‘female intuition’ could actually have a biological component, related to the lower prenatal exposure to testosterone women receive in the womb,” explain Antonio Manuel Espin, from the University of Granada, Antoni Bosch Domènech, from the Pompeu Fabra University, and Pablo Brañas Garza, from Middlesex University.
“This would lead them to have a more intuitive and less reflective attitude to life than men,” say the scientists, who published their research in the May 2014 issue of the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.
According to previous studies, prenatal exposure to testosterone affects developments in the brain that determine, to some extent, behavioral trends and tendencies throughout the lives of each individual, including humans.
Males receive a higher amount of prenatal testosterone, which influences their behavior so that they, for example, tend to take more risks.
Intuitive thought can be defined as that which is processed automatically and unconsciously and which, therefore, requires little cognitive effort.
On the other extreme is reflective thought, which takes greater effort and conscious analysis.
Intuitive thought is based on sensations and is more “emotional,” while reflective thought is analytical and more “rational,” the researchers note. In certain situations, to “let yourself be led” by intuition will be better than stopping to think. In other situations, the opposite will occur.
So, are men less intuitive?
The authors of the study wondered whether exposure to testosterone also has an effect on men being “less intuitive” and “more reflective” than women. So they conducted a series of experiments on more than 600 students from Spain’s University of Granada Faculty of Economics and Business Studies.
For their analyses, the researchers used a prenatal testosterone marker, called “digital ratio.”
The digital ratio is determined by dividing the length of the forefinger by the length of the ring finger of the same hand. “The lower the ratio, the greater the prenatal testosterone received and, therefore, the more “masculine” the cerebral disposition — regardless of the person’s gender.
Men, “obviously, have a lower average digital ratio than women,” pointed out Espin, who is a lecturer in the University of Granada’s Department of Economic Theory and History.
Cognitive Reflection Test
The participants first responded to a series of questionnaires, including the Cognitive Reflection Test (CRT), which precisely measures the dichotomy between intuition and reflection. The CRT consists of three simple algebraic questions that, given how they are presented, generate intuitive answers that come automatically but are incorrect.
To get the right answer, the individual has to stop to reflect and realize that the first answer that came into his or her head was incorrect.
Using only three questions, this test has proved reliable in predicting such things as which people are more likely to believe in God or in the supernatural — since the answers to those questions relate positively to answering the test intuitively.
Espin points out that their research showed that “women tend to give more intuitive answers, whilst men respond in a more reflective way. In other words, on this specific test, which penalizes intuitive thought, men generally do better than women.”
Following the tests, the researchers scanned the participants’ hands to measure finger length and calculate the digital ratio.
The results were clear.
Men responded better to the CRT than women, but women whose hands revealed a more “masculine” (i.e., lower) digital ratio performed equally as well as the men.
“What we found was an indication that prenatal exposure to testosterone predisposes people to adopt a more reflective and less intuitive mindset,” the article concluded. “Furthermore, this effect seems to be stronger among women.”
Stay tuned next month for more Intuition Rules.