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A Handful of Findings About Finger Length

Researchers study the effects of having a longer fourth finger than second finger, a sign of higher testosterone exposure before birth. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is the VOA Special English Health Report.

Is there meaning in the length of a finger? An eighteen ninety-three guidebook called "Modern Etiquette in Public and Private" had this to say: "Long fingers are a sign of refinement. A short stubby hand argues a lack of sensibility."

Well, long fingers might also be a sign of a good basketball player or pianist. Or maybe just a master at thumb wars. This much is sure: studies in recent years have pointed toward a number of findings.

Researchers at the University of Cambridge in England, for example, just tied finger length to success in financial trading.

The study led by John Coates looked at stock traders in London. Earlier work found that male stock traders made more money on days when their level of the male hormone testosterone was higher. John Coates -- himself a former trader -- wondered if, over all, men with more testosterone made more successful traders.

Individuals are exposed to testosterone while in their mother's womb. A way to know how much is to compare their ring finger to their index finger. The index finger is the one next to the thumb; the ring finger is third from the thumb. The longer the ring finger compared to the index finger, the greater the testosterone exposure.

The study involved forty-four traders and their profits and losses over a twenty-month period ending in two thousand seven.

Those with the most experience and testosterone exposure earned about six times as much as those with the least. Also, the research showed that traders with the most exposure generally made the most money in wild markets when quick action is required. Testosterone is known to make people more sure of themselves and more willing to take risks. It may also improve a person's thinking ability.

The findings appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

A two thousand seven British study showed that finger length might help predict test results among schoolchildren. Psychology researchers at the University of Bath looked at the hands of seven-year-olds. Those with ring fingers longer than index fingers did better on the math part of a standardized test than the reading part.

This was true for boys as well as girls. Females are also exposed to some testosterone in the womb.

And another British study reported last year that people whose index finger is shorter than their ring finger are at higher risk of osteoarthritis. That study was from the University of Nottingham.

And that's the VOA Special English Health Report, written by Caty Weaver. Looking at my fingers, I'm Steve Ember.