Friday, March 11, 2011

High Levels of Testosterone in utero, IQ, and Literature

Does high levels of testosterone in utero cause genius? I wouldn't doubt it. High levels of testosterone in utero also causes heritable left-handedness (approximately 50% of left-handers, the other 50% being caused by birth trauma), and we see an extremely high percentage of left-handers in the arts, math, and the sciences. This suggests that at the very least high levels of testosterone in utero may be a cause of a considerable number of incidences of high IQ.

This potentially helps explain why males tend to dominate in the arts, math, and sciences. I would not be surprised to find that an unusual number of women who do well in these fields are left-handed, or have higher than usual testosterone levels (or exhibit behaviors typical of those who experienced high levels of testosterone in utero).

If this is true for even a significant percentage of artists, what effect might this have on literature? Left-handers tend to turn to the left and notice things to their left more than to the right (vice versa for right handers). Do we see evidence of this in works of literature? How might one identify such things? I will note that the creator of The Simpsons is left handed, and a great many of the characters in the show are also left handed. There is even an entire episode on Ned Flanders opening a store for left handers, The Leftorium.

But there are likely to be other consequences. Does high levels of testosterone in utero affect cognition? Emotions? World view? Sexual behavior and sexuality (we know it does for these two)? If having had high levels of testosterone in utero affect these and any number of other aspects of cognition, we should expect to see it in works of literature produced by such people. How does this affect literary history? The effects of literature on culture?


  1. Well you might not like the conclusion, and I'm not sure you have causality in the right order. But males dominante the upper IQ realm largely because of bigger heads and bigger brains, the fact that testosterone encourages specialization, and because testosterone limits empathy, and empathy is a distraction that limits abstract reasoning, and over time. Over time these tendencies are more likely to produce specialization and specialization is more likely to produce innovation. You are what you think about.

  2. Women also have denser brains, thus making up for the size difference. Men lie at either extreme. There are more very high IQs, but also more very low IQs, learning disabilities, etc. Now the other points you make are certainly valid. However, and this is an interesting fact I forgot to mention, the hormonal process that results in left handedness also results in a 50% larger corpus collosum, meaning there is much better communication across the hemispheres, meaning that such brains tend to be more interdisciplinary as well.

  3. Cool post.
    Refereshing far away from this "political correctness" terror

  4. what is the cause of the differing levels of testosterone/oestrogen during pregnancy? have read it can be due to stress levels.