5.23.2007

Does Size Matter? It's all relative.

When I was about 12, my piano teacher extolled my long fingers: thumb to pinky, when stretched, could span 10 keys. But she was the exception. My sister calls them “alien fingers,” and it’s generally an awkward moment when a date first discovers his hands are smaller than mine.

Finger length is determined by the precise mix of hormones a developing fetus is exposed to. Men, who were exposed to more testosterone in the womb than women, generally have ring fingers that are longer than their index fingers. Women, exposed to more oestrogen, generally have longer index fingers. (The differences, of course, are but a couple of millimeters.)

A new study from the British Journal of Psychology found that this ratio of finger lengths may also indicate how well a child scores on math and verbal SAT tests.

After comparing the index and ring-finger lengths of 75 7-year-olds, psychologists from the University of Bath found the children whose ring fingers were longer than their index fingers--mostly boys--did better on math tests than verbal tests.

This makes sense, the researchers say, since previous research has shown that exposure to testosterone in the womb promotes growth in brain areas associated with math and spatial reasoning. It's not yet clear whether oestrogen exposure promotes growth of verbal areas of the brain.

...which means that apparently my hands are unusual in yet another way: unlike most girls, my ring fingers are longer than my index fingers. And indeed, my math standardized test scores were higher than my English scores. But what I really wanna know is: How'd I get all that extra testosterone? (And shouldn't I be, like, more competitive? Or at least less timid?)

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