Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 3, 2005
By: Kevin Drum

PALMISTRY....This comes as news to me, but the BBC reports that a new Canadian study indicates that you can tell a lot about a man by the relative size of his ring finger and index finger:

In women, the two fingers are usually almost equal in length, as measured from the crease nearest the palm to the fingertip. In men, the ring finger tends to be much longer than the index.

Other studies looking at finger length ratio have suggested that, in men, a long ring finger and symmetrical hands are an indication of fertility, and that women are more likely to be fertile if they have a longer index finger.

....One study found boys with shorter ring fingers tended to be at greatest risk of a heart attack in early adulthood, which was linked to testosterone levels.

In the current study, Dr Peter Hurd and his student Allison Bailey measured the fingers of 300 undergraduates at their university.

Men with the shortest index fingers scored higher on measures of physical aggression than those with longer index fingers, but the study's findings did not apply to women.

Naturally I went right out and measured my own fingers. Unfortunately, the results were disturbingly ambiguous.

As you can see, on my left hand I have an index finger that's noticably shorter than my ring finger. The difference is about 5/16 of an inch. But on my right hand, the two fingers are almost identical in length.

So what does this mean? Do I have a relatively short index finger, meaning I'm a physically aggressive person? Or do I have relatively long index finger, meaning I'm a wuss? The actual answer is that I'm a wuss, so it must be the right hand that controls. Or, since I'm right handed, maybe it's the dominant hand that controls. Or maybe the BBC has provided us with woefully insufficient information.

Or....maybe it doesn't mean a thing. After all, what would a couple of Canadian scientists know about aggression? But even so, I'll bet all the men who read this are going to sneak a peek at their hands to see how they measure up.

POSTSCRIPT: In any case, Prof. Hurd says finger length accounts for only 5% of the variation in aggression and warns that "you wouldn't want to screen people for certain jobs based on their finger lengths." That's a relief.

Kevin Drum 10:36 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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