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Fetal testosterone (2D:4D) as predictor of cognitive reflection

  • Antoni Bosch-Domènech

    (Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra and Barcelona Graduate School of Economics)

  • Pablo Brañas-Garza

    (Economic Science Institute, and Department of Economics and International Development, Middlesex University Business School)

  • Antonio M. Espín

    (Facultad de Ciencias Económicas y Empresariales)

The Cognitive Reflection Test (CRT) is a test introduced by S. Frederick (2005) Cognitive reflection and decision making, J Econ Perspect 19(4): 25-42. The task is designed to measure the tendency to override an intuitive response that is incorrect and to engage in further reflection that leads to the correct response. The consistent sex differences in CRT performance may suggest a role for gonadal hormones, particularly testosterone. A now widely studied putative marker for fetal testosterone is the second-to-fourth digit ratio (2D:4D). This paper tests to what extent 2D:4D, as a proxy for prenatal exposure to testosterone, can predict CRT scores in a sample of 623 students. After controlling for sex, we observe that a lower 2D:4D (reflecting a higher exposure to testosterone) is significantly associated with a higher number of correct answers. The result holds for both hands’ 2D:4Ds. In addition, the effect appears to be sharper for females than for males. We also control for patience and math proficiency, which are significantly related to performance in the CRT. But the effect of 2D:4D on performance in CRT is not reduced with these controls, implying that these variables are not mediating the relationship between digit ratio and CRT.

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Paper provided by Chapman University, Economic Science Institute in its series Working Papers with number 13-18.

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Length: 22 pages
Date of creation: 2013
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:chu:wpaper:13-18
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  1. Glenn W. Harrison & Morten I. Lau & Melonie B. Williams, 2002. "Estimating Individual Discount Rates in Denmark: A Field Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(5), pages 1606-1617, December.
  2. Guillermo Campitelli & Martin Labollita, 2010. "Correlations of cognitive reflection with judgments and choices," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 5(3), pages 182-191, June.
  3. Oechssler, Jörg & Roider, Andreas & Schmitz, Patrick W., 2008. "Cognitive Abilities and Behavioral Biases," Sonderforschungsbereich 504 Publications 08-05, Sonderforschungsbereich 504, Universität Mannheim;Sonderforschungsbereich 504, University of Mannheim.
  4. Edward T. Cokely & Colleen M. Kelley, 2009. "Cognitive abilities and superior decision making under risk: A protocol analysis and process model evaluation," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 4(1), pages 20-33, February.
  5. Maribeth Coller & Melonie Williams, 1999. "Eliciting Individual Discount Rates," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 2(2), pages 107-127, December.
  6. Drew Fudenberg & David K. Levine, 2006. "A Dual Self Model of Impulse Control," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 2112, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  7. Pablo Brañas-Garza & Teresa García-Muño & Roberto Hernán, 2011. "Cognitive effort in the Beauty Contest Game," Working Papers 11-08, Chapman University, Economic Science Institute.
  8. Shane Frederick, 2005. "Cognitive Reflection and Decision Making," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 19(4), pages 25-42, Fall.
  9. B. Douglas Bernheim & Antonio Rangel, 2004. "Addiction and Cue-Triggered Decision Processes," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(5), pages 1558-1590, December.
  10. Filippos Exadaktylos & Antonio M. Espin & Pablo Branas-Garza, 2012. "Experimental Subjects are Not Different," Working Papers 12-11, Chapman University, Economic Science Institute.
  11. Isabelle Brocas & Juan D. Carrillo, 2008. "The Brain as a Hierarchical Organization," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(4), pages 1312-46, September.
  12. Ellen Garbarino & Robert Slonim & Justin Sydnor, 2011. "Digit ratios (2D:4D) as predictors of risky decision making for both sexes," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 42(1), pages 1-26, February.
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