intuition1It seems like every spring, my husband and I have to interview a whole new crop of contractors to come fix, replace or improve on something that our house imminently needs and can’t be postponed any longer no matter how much we wish it could be. (Yay, home ownership, yay.)

And while we both take into account each contractor’s price, reviews from other customers and his or her professionalism, I also tap into my gut hunches to figure out if we’re hiring the right person.

The conversation after each contractor leaves our house after the initial interview goes something like this:

Douglas: “Well, his bid is within our budget and he can get started within a week.”

Me: “Yes, but did you notice he didn’t like to look either of us in the eye?”

Douglas: “It was pretty sunny out. Maybe he’s sensitive to light.”

Me: “He also shifted around a lot as he spoke. I have a bad feeling about him. He’s not the right guy for us. Let’s keep looking.”

Douglas: “Sigh.”

I can’t help it. Those messages I get from my subconscious that help me assess a situation or figure out what someone’s really thinking–often called “female intuition”–are just as important to me when making decisions as looking at the facts.

And it’s something my husband doesn’t understand because, like many men, he don’t get these hunches like many of us gals do.

Now a new study in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology reveals why women are more likely to be born with this extra intuitive sense, but men aren’t.

According to the findings, the level of testosterone you were exposed to in the womb has a direct effect on how much you rely on intuition or analytical reasoning to reach a conclusion.

As the researchers explain, the more prenatal testosterone you were exposed to, the more analytical you tend to be. The less prenatal testosterone you were exposed to, the more you tend to rely on your intuition.

Since women are generally exposed to less prenatal testosterone, we tend to rely on our gut instincts more than men, who are generally exposed to higher levels of this hormone.

To confirm this link between prenatal testosterone and how intuitive or analytical we are, the 659 male and female study volunteers had their fingers measured. Research shows that people with index fingers (first fingers) that are shorter than their ring fingers (third fingers) are exposed to higher levels of testosterone in the womb.

The researchers then gave the volunteers a “cognitive reflection test”, which reveals whether you’re more intuitive or analytical based on the answers you give. Those who get the answers correct tend to be more analytical. Those who get the answers incorrect tend to be more intuitive. (Though I have to admit, this test seems a tad designed to making intuitive-based people feel a bit unintelligent for trusting their hunches. And I’m not just saying that because I, myself, got all the answers wrong. Well, maybe just a little…)

All this said, this doesn’t mean all men are analytical and all women are intuitive. Truth is, how much testosterone we’re exposed to before we’re born can vary–with some men exposed to less of this hormone and some women exposed to more of it.

Want to test for yourself what your prenatal testosterone level was–and if you’re more intuitive or analytical as a result? Here’s what to do:

1. Look at your fingers:

Measure your index finger and ring finger from the middle of the crease at the bottom to the very tip. Use a ruler since eyeballing it isn’t accurate enough.

If your index finger is shorter than your ring finger, research shows you were exposed to higher levels of testosterone in the womb.

2. Answer these three questions: [Scroll down for the answers.]

A) A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1.00 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost? _____ cents

B) If it takes 5 machines 5 minutes to make 5 widgets, how long would it take 100 machines to make 100 widgets? _____ minutes

C) In a lake, there is a patch of lily pads. Every day, the patch doubles in size. If it takes 48 days for the patch to cover the entire lake, how long would it take for the patch to cover half of the lake? _____ days

If you get the answers correct, you’re more analytical. If your answers are incorrect, you’re more intuitive.

In addition to my index and ring fingers being similar lengths, suggesting a lower amount of prenatal testosterone, after answering these questions, I’ve confirmed that I am SO intuitive.

How do your prenatal hormones measure up? Did they make you more intuitive or analytical?



Answers to above questions:

A) Did you answer “10 cents” because $1.00 plus $0.10 is $1.10? This is an intuitive response, but incorrect. Did you answer “5 cents”? Then you’re more analytical–and correct. That’s because you saw that 5 cents plus $1.05 = $1.10.

B) Did you answer “100” because you saw that 5=5=5 meant that 100=100=100? This is an intuitive response, but is incorrect. Did you answer “5 minutes”? Then your answer is more analytical since you realized that if it takes a single machine 5 minutes to make a single widget, then even a million machines can make a million widgets in 5 minutes.

C) Did you answer “24” because you figured half the pond would be covered in half the time? This is an intuitive answer, but is incorrect. Did you answer “47” days? Then your answer is both analytical and correct because you took into account the exponential growth of the lily pads and realized that if they doubled in size every day, then on day 47, the pond would be half covered.

Didn’t get most or any correct? Don’t feel bad. Check out the average number of these questions students at top universities got right:

• Massachusetts Institute of Technology: 2.18
• Princeton University: 1.63
• Carnegie Mellon: 1.51
• Harvard University: 1.43
• Michigan State University: 0.79

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