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The Neuroscience of Women’s Intuition

The differences between men and women's gut feelings and instincts.

Key points

  • Intuition is an unflinching truth-teller committed to our well-being.
  • Intuition is something many people rely on for snap judgments and even life-altering decisions.
  • Intuition happens so fast that the reaction is at an unconscious level.
  • Women's brains are actually optimized for rapid, intuitive decision-making.

Intuition is a potent form of inner wisdom.

It’s an unflinching truth-teller committed to our well-being. You can experience intuition as a gut feeling, hunch, a physical sensation, a snapshot-like flash, or a dream. Always a friend, it keeps a vigilant eye on our bodies, letting us know if something is out of sync.

Intuition is something many of us rely on for snap judgments and often life-altering decisions. A 2008 study in the British Journal of Psychology defined intuition as what happens when the brain draws on past experiences and external cues to make a decision—but it happens so fast that the reaction is at an unconscious level.

In my book Guide to Intuitive Healing, I discuss the neuroscience of intuition. An important aspect of this is that there are neurotransmitters in the gut that can respond to environmental stimuli and emotions in the present—it’s not just about past experiences. When those neurotransmitters fire, you may feel the sensation of “butterflies” or uneasiness in your stomach. Researchers theorize that “gut instinct,” which sends signals to your brain, plays a large role in intuition.

Women’s Intuition

Scientists believe intuition operates through the right side of our brain, the brain’s hippocampus, and through our gut (the digestive system has neurons as well). A woman’s corpus callosum, the connective white matter that connects our left and right brain hemispheres, is thicker than a man’s. This gives women better and faster abilities to access each hemisphere, further integrating their emotions and gut feelings with the more logical decision-making functions of the left hemisphere. Women’s brains are optimized for rapid, intuitive decision-making. Women often tend to be psychologically more in touch with their emotions and are more likely to integrate hunches and emotional intuitions about people with the functions of logic.

Because men have a thinner corpus callosum, they are more compartmentalized in their thinking and less about to move back and forth from intuition to logic. Also, women are encouraged to be receptive to their inner thoughts, so it appears that they have more intuition than men. The reality is girls are often praised for being sensitive while boys are urged to be more linear in their thinking rather than listening to their feelings.

How do you tune in to your gut? First, pay attention to your physical responses. For example, you may be trying to decide if you should take a new job that pays twice the salary as your current one. Your head says, “Of course! That’s a lot of money,” but you notice that you feel a little sick to your stomach or exhausted. That’s an intuitive cue that you should step back and examine the offer.

You also need to make sure you aren’t mistaking strong emotions for intuition. Fear, desire, and panic can all get in the way of intuition. It’s important to focus on one’s inner voice and stay grounded.


Isenberg, Daniel J. (Nov-Dec 1984). Intuition Makes For Superior Management Decisions, How Senior Managers Think, Harvard Business Review, Harvard Business School studyIsenberg, Daniel J. (Nov-Dec 1984).

Hodgkinson, G. P., Langan-Fox, J., & Sadler-Smith, E. (2008). Intuition: A fundamental bridging construct in the behavioral sciences. British Journal of Psychology, 99(1), 1–27.

Wei Bao, Yunhong Wang, Tingting Yu, Jiarong Zhou, Junlong Luo, (2022). Women rely on “gut feeling”? The neural pattern of gender difference in non-mathematic intuition, Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 196. ScienceDirect

Oakley, Colleen, Reviewed by Farrell, Patricia A. PhD (2012). The Power of Female Intuition: Just what is that 6th sense that sometimes guides you? And what's the best way to tune in? WebMD Archives.

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