Stories tagged fingers


Curious langur
Curious langurCourtesy John Downer
Have you ever wondered why people honk at you .02 seconds after the light turns green? Or why some people take Connect Four a little too seriously? Well, it may be the length of their fingers. That’s right, the difference in length between your 2nd finger (or pointer finger) and your 4th finger (or ring finger) is thought to be an indirect measurement of testosterone levels you were exposed to during fetal development. The more testosterone, the longer your ring finger compared to you pointer finger.

In a recent study, researchers from the University of Liverpool and Oxford used this measurement to link aggressiveness in primates with the levels of prenatal testosterone in utero. They found that Old World monkeys tended to have a low 4th digit (4D) to 2nd digit (2D) ratio (i.e. their ring fingers were longer than their pointer fingers) and also exhibited aggressive, competitive, and promiscuous behavior. New World monkeys (like gibbons), on the other hand, along with Great Apes (like chimps and orangutans) tended to have a higher 2D:4D ratio. These species were found to exhibit much more cooperative and tolerant behavior. The results of the study have implications for our own social behaviors. We live in large multi-male, multi-female groups and are (usually) quite cooperative. This study, and more like it, could start to shed light on the origins of our sociality.

The use of digit ratio as a measurement of prenatal testosterone is not new, however. Many researchers have used it even in humans (we are primates after all) to try and predict various behaviors, aptitudes, and personal characteristics. For example, some of the traits suggested to correlate with low digit ratios (ring longer than pointer) include greater male fertility, assertiveness in women, and greater musical and athletic ability. These studies looked at the increased competitive nature brought out in individuals with exposure to high levels of prenatal testosterone.

So the next time someone cuts you off, just know it might be the case that their 4th digit is longer than their 2nd… so try to leave your 3rd digit out of it.


Happy fingers: They're only smiling because they've just thought of mean things to do to you, though.
Happy fingers: They're only smiling because they've just thought of mean things to do to you, though.Courtesy peyri
Hooray, everybody! Get out your hands and your eyeballs, because we’re going to going to be looking at our fingers with our eyes, and making snap, unscientific judgments based on subtle trends observed in scientific research!

Hey, it’s Friday, after all, isn’t it? Take off your mittens and start lookin’!

(Unless you’re reading this from, like, California or Indonesia. Then you don’t get to participate. All y’all go find some mittens, and imagine what it’s like to wait for the bus when it’s -15 Fahrenheit out. Ooh, I’m angry.)

Oh, also, I’m afraid that the ladies will have to sit most of this one out as well. You can still look at your hands, or whatever, and we might have something for you later, but mostly this is boys’ club time.

Anyhoo, the scaly tail of years of research has just dragged by us, bearing the news that men with long ring fingers are more successful stock traders. Yowza! All right, guys, take a look; are you going to be successful in the stock market?

Wait, what? You have no interest in being a stock trader? Me neither? Oh. Well, let’s follow this tail-end news item up to the hips: back in the year 2005, we learned that men with relatively long ring fingers (compared to the index finger) have been exposed to a greater amount of testosterone in his mother’s womb, and, therefore, are more likely to be physically aggressive individuals. This aggressive behavior is likely what leads to success in the dog-eat-dog world of expensive suits, country clubs, and golfing that is stock trading.

Guess who this hand belongs to: All right, what can y'all tell JGordon about himself?
Guess who this hand belongs to: All right, what can y'all tell JGordon about himself?Courtesy JGordon
So take another look, everyone (everyone with a Y-chromosome, anyway). Are you a violent, aggressive dude? Does your ring finger tower over your little pointer? (If it’s not clear, take a look at your other hand. Is it gouging, clawing, or strangling something? Because that’s another strong sign of aggressive behavior.)

That’s interesting, isn’t it? We’re always looking for ways to see who’s more manly, and we don’t even have to disrobe for this one. But wait one more second, because this research beast goes even further back.

A study done in 2000 suggests that there may be a link between ring finger size and sexual orientation. (Ladies, you might want to toss an ear this way now, because this concerns you too.)

The research seemed to show that men who have a ring finger that is much larger than their index finger (the characteristic associated with aggressiveness in the later studies) were more likely to be gay—but only if they have older brothers.

Think back… do you have any brothers? Are they older than you? What about your ring finger—where’s it at?

And, women, the study has something to say about y’all as well. While most men have some noticeable difference in their ring and index finger lengths, most women have index and ring fingers that are much closer to each other in length. Lesbian women, however, often have a greater difference in the length of these fingers than straight women do.

Take a look, ladies. Were you straight or gay all this time, and it turns out that your fingers don’t agree?

It’s probably not worth getting too worked up about. If you have been acting aggressive all your life, and just found out that you’re living a lie… don’t worry about it. These are statistical associations, but they don’t mean nuthin’ about who you are.

How was that? Now put your mittens back on.


It won't be so bad!: A human child enjoys his new home.    (photo by sofubared on
It won't be so bad!: A human child enjoys his new home. (photo by sofubared on
Evolution has just taken a bold step forward. I hate to be the bearer of grim news, but, if, like me, you are a human being (and I expect that most of you are), I have this to say to you: we have been left behind.

That’s right, if you haven’t guessed it already, the inevitable has finally happened, and a New York woman has given birth to a healthy 12-fingered and 12-toed baby boy. The scientific press hasn’t said so directly yet, but I think I am safe in saying that the boy is expected to be a superb athlete (at least in ball-sports), a concert pianist, and some sort of crime fighter (I’m thinking “Spiderman Jr.”).

So there you have it. All that’s left now is for the rest of us to wait and wonder what we should do now that we are obsolete. If nothing comes to mind, governments across the world will be initiating the long-planned “Troglodyte Protocol,” a voluntary program to assist members of the species homo sapien to our rightful future home – deep below the surface of the earth, where we will cheerfully run factories and power plants for homo sapien superior.

Goodbye surface and sunlight. We know when we aren’t needed.

We have posted previously of what kinds of super powers you would like science to deliver but I never saw this one listed. Wired is reporting on people who claim they gain a sort of magnetic sixth sense by having tiny rare-earth magnets implanted in their fingertips.