I recently had the opportunity to go to Delphi where the ancient Greeks came to seek guidance from clairvoyant oracles. Most of those prescient “seers” were women.
I was not surprised. For some time I have thought this myself, for several reasons. Foremost, women are generally better at picking up the nuances of body posture, gestures, facial expressions and tone of voice. Moreover, the female brain has more nerve cables between the two hemispheres, as well as more long distance connections within each hemisphere--brain architecture likely to help them connect desperate bits of data.
Women are also (on average) more interested in people, a trait that plays a role. Intuition apparently comes from stored experience. As a person learns how to run a company, diagnose an illness, or play a game, he or she begins to see regularities and organize these patterns into blocks of knowledge—known as “chunking.” With time, more patterns are chunked. And linked. And these clusters of knowledge are stored in long-term memory. Then, when a single detail of a complex pattern appears, the experienced person instantly recognizes the larger composition, bypassing plodding sequential thought. Both sexes "chunk" data. But women probably chunk more data about people. Then they use their well-connected brains to “read” minds.
But I chose to write about women’s intuition because new data support it! Our brains are widely connected to our bodily organs via specific circuits, what neuroscientist Antonio Damasio calls “body loops.” He believes these brain/body connections produce the “gut reactions” that people report when they get a “hunch.” These gut reactions help to steer behavior. But recently scientists established that the heart responds more quickly than the head to emotionally arousing experiences, and that women are significantly better at processing these bodily reactions: intuition.
Why have women developed a keen intuitive sense? Probably because ancestral women were obliged to decipher the needs of their highly dependent, prelinguistic young. But today, as more business people must size up foreign clients and complex business problems, this intuitive judgment may become highly valued--giving women this business edge.
Next time I will write about a skill of men. Both have their talents. To paraphrase poet Ted Hughes, men and women are like two feet; we need each other to get ahead. Cheers,