Exposure to prenatal testosterone accounts for many of the differences between men and women, particularly in the brain. Researchers from Spain and London demonstrated that intuition itself is driven by testosterone, or a lack thereof, according to a report published online ahead of print in Psychoneuroendocrinology.

The study, by Antoni Bosch-Demenech, PhD, of Universitat Pompeu Fabra and Barcelona Graduate School of Economics in Barcelona, and colleagues, used an established method of determining prenatal testosterone exposure by calculating the ratio of the 2nd digit to the 4th digit on the hands of the participants (2D:4D). A lower 2D:4D reflects a higher prenatal exposure to testosterone. A total of 623 subjects whose digit ratios were calculated then took a cognitive reflection test (CRT). 

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The test penalizes quick, intuitive thinking. Higher scores on the test reveal a more reflexive or ‘controlled’ way of thinking rather than intuitive or ‘automatic’ thought. 

After controlling for sex, the researchers observed that increased testosterone exposure was significantly associated with a higher number of correct answers on the CRT.  The effect appeared stronger in females.