Career choice predetermined by hormones



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Prenatal hormones determine the career choice

The hormone level in the mother's womb influences later professional career. This is the conclusion reached by psychologists from the University of Konstanz when examining possible connections between prenatal hormone levels and the professional interests of women and men in adulthood. Accordingly, a high testosterone level in the womb causes an increased technical interest, a low testosterone level leads to a preference for social activities.

As part of their comprehensive study, the researchers led by Katja Päßler and Benedikt Hell from the University of Konstanz found that later professional interests are largely determined by the hormone level in the womb and that social influencing factors play a rather minor role. According to the researchers, the current results of the study suggest that "we cannot expect or should not evenly distribute gender in study programs or occupations."

Prenatal hormone levels affect professional interests
As part of their study, the psychologists at the University of Konstanz compared the professional career of more than 8,600 adult participants with their prenatal hormone levels, and found something astonishing: Apparently, their later professional interest is determined even before they are born. In order to determine the hormone level of the test subjects before their birth, the researchers used the findings of an earlier study, according to which the length ratio between the index finger and the ring finger can be used as an indicator of the prenatal testosterone level. Because the length of the fingers and the prenatal hormone level are determined by the same gene sequence. Using this indicator, the researchers determined the prenatal hormone levels of the study participants and compared them with the current professional activity of the subjects. The psychologists were able to prove that a high testosterone level before birth favors a later interest in technical issues and that a low testosterone level is associated with an increased interest in dealing with people, according to the psychologists. The current study also confirms the gender stereotypes according to which men tend to prefer technical professions and women prefer social activities.

Hormone levels determine gender-specific professional interests
The connections between the prenatal hormone level and the professional career could also provide an explanation for the gender-specific interests in technical and social professions, explained the scientists at the University of Konstanz. "Our results lead to the implication that we cannot or should not expect an equal gender distribution in courses of study or professions," said Benedikt Hell when presenting the current study results. According to the researchers, however, the new findings do not allow any conclusions to be drawn about individual professional careers, since the study only shows “trends” in a large sample. Nevertheless, these trends can be seen as significant differences in professional interests depending on the prenatal hormone level, the experts explained.

Hormones affect behavior
It has long been known that hormones influence human behavior. So far, however, short-term fluctuations in hormone levels, such as those that can occur with thyroid disease, have been the focus of interest. Now, however, the psychologists have significantly expanded the time frame for possible influences of the hormone level. The fact that hormones should cause certain behavioral patterns before birth, such as an increased interest in social issues or technical professions, offers new starting points for future research to find out to what extent hormones influence behavior and individual development. (fp)

Also read:
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Breast cancer through hormone treatments
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Photo credit: Gerd Altmann / AllSilhouettes.com / pixelio.de

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