By Lauren Wilkinson
As a woman, when I walk down the street, I try to pick up clues from the people coming toward me. Are they friendly? Are they threats? Should I move to the side or avert my eyes? What guides me, largely, is intuition.
What is intuition? It’s an expression of intellect. What is intellect? It’s many things. Daniel Kahneman, winner of a Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics, has outlined two different cognitive systems inside our brains. System 1 is a largely unconscious mode of reasoning. It involves fast thinking. System 2 cognition is analytical and slow.
Intuition is a part of System 1 thinking. It’s is our ability to instantaneously and subconsciously pick up on social clues: the note in a friend’s voice that suggests they are angry with you, or the almost indiscernible expression that suggest they are lying.
Intuition, long the stuff of myth, is recently the stuff of study. Last year, a study published in Psychoneuroendocrinology (a real journal) suggested that women are “more intuitive” because of lower prenatal testosterone exposure. The study was interesting, but not compelling. I would be more interested—and more convinced—by a study that investigated the link between a woman’s reliance on her intuition and her relative sense of personal safety. Perhaps is more likely that there are social factors at play, and not biological ones. Perhaps it is simply that people are trained to respond differently to potential dangers. As a woman living alone in a big city, I walk down the street alone in a big city. My awareness of my own lack of power is a source of power.
Do men and women have different kinds of power?
Are the powers of different genders in conflict or are they complements?
Lauren Wilkinson grew up in New York and lives in the Lower East Side. Her debut novel, L’American, is forthcoming from Random House.