Sun, 13 Mar 2005


Index fingers point to rational male thought

An unusually long index finger is an index of male superiority at rational scientific thought and reasoning, according to a team of British scientists, all of whose first digits presumably meet the qualifications.

Their findings showed that male scientists are good at research because they have higher than average levels of the female hormone estrogen which aids analytical skills.

The survey, conducted on academics at the University of Bath, found that male scientists tended to have longer index fingers than other men, indicating high levels of estrogen present in their bodies.

Men studied had levels of estrogen as high as their testosterone levels, which caused the right side of their brains responsible for spatial and analytical skills, to develop more strongly.

Because of the high levels of estrogen, male scientists were less likely to have children and were more likely to have relatives with dyslexia which may be in part caused by hormonal levels.

Findings also revealed that female social scientists tended to have higher than average levels of testosterone, making their brains similar to those of males.

The study drew on past research which has found that finger length is genetically linked with the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone.

A person whose index finger is shorter than their ring finger will have received more testosterone while in the womb than a person with a longer index finger who will have had more estrogen.

Psychology lecturer Dr. Mark Brosnan studied 100 male and female academics at the University of Bath.

He found that men teaching traditional science subjects such as maths and physics had index fingers at least as long as their ring fingers, meaning they had high levels of estrogen.

Men teaching social science, such as psychology and education had ring fingers longer than their index fingers.

Brosnan, whose index finger is the same length as his ring finger, said: "The results are fascinating insight into how testosterone and estrogen levels in the womb can effect people's choice of career and how these levels can show up in the length of fingers on our hands.

"In the general population, men typically have higher levels of testosterone than women, but the male scientists at the University of Bath have lower testosterone levels than is usual for men their estrogen and testosterone tend to match those of women generally.

"This research now suggests that lower than average testosterone levels in men lead to spatial skills that can give a man the ability to succeed in science.

"Other research in the past also suggested that an unusually high level of testosterone can do the same thing by encouraging the development of the right hemisphere."

Brosnan said that the lack of women working in science was a mystery.

He added: "Science has been male-dominated in the past and this may be putting women off entering it, even though they are able to." -- DPA