'Technophobia determined in the womb'

A fear of using technology could be determined before we are even born, scientists revealed today.

A person's attitude towards new technology can be predicted by the hormones we are exposed to in the womb, according to University of Bath researchers.

Scientists claim pre-natal testosterone exposure has an effect on the way the brain develops that makes it either easier or more difficult to understand technology.

Leading the research, Dr Mark Brosnan said: "It is fascinating that this index of pre-natal testosterone exposure is impacting upon university grades 20 years later.

"Lower levels of pre-natal testosterone exposure were related to anxieties concerning the use of new technologies, such as computers.

"We have come across many technophobes during our research and this will help us better address their computer-related anxieties."

Researchers found that levels of pre-natal testosterone exposure were higher in computer science students.

Levels of exposure were measured by comparing the length of the students' ring finger to the index finger, with the greater difference in length indicating higher exposure to pre-natal testosterone.

The study compared the finger lengths of 150 computer science students and found in every case a clear link between a student's grades and the relative lengths of their index and ring fingers.

The team also looked at 119 non-computer science students and found that a relatively shorter ring finger relative to the index finger was connected to greater feelings of anxiety about using technology.

The research suggests that lower exposure to pre-natal testosterone relates to general anxiety sensitivity.

Dr Brosnan added: "Anxiety sensitive people, who may have technophobia, often think of themselves as failures or that they are stupid, but everyone has different strengths and weaknesses.

"What this shows is that these people are not failures. The relationship between pre-natal testosterone exposure and sensitivity to anxiety could then be useful in tailoring information differently to help anxiety concerning new technologies."

The research will be published in the academic journal Personality And Individual Differences.