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Clinical Trial
, 46 (5), 558-64

Digit Length Ratios Predict Reactive Aggression in Women, but Not in Men

Clinical Trial

Digit Length Ratios Predict Reactive Aggression in Women, but Not in Men

Zeynep Benderlioglu et al. Horm Behav.


Considerable evidence suggests that digit length and dermatoglyphic asymmetry patterns in the hand are affected by early exposure to androgens. Because androgens play an important role in sexual differentiation of morphological and behavioral traits, digit length patterns often display sex differences. When present, sex differences in digit lengths are more pronounced on the right side as compared to the left side. Moreover, the ratio of the second to fourth digit length (2D:4D) in the right hand is inversely correlated with testosterone (T) in men. Because T is implicated in agonistic behavior, 2D:4D may be used as a marker of androgen exposure and subsequent behavioral variation in adulthood. Consequently, we investigated the relationships among 2D:4D, directional asymmetry of 2D:4D (left hand 2D:4D minus right hand 2D:4D) as a variant of T, and human reactive aggression. One hundred young men (n = 51) and women (n = 49) participated in our experiments (mean age = 20.1 years). Participants called two noncompliant confederates to solicit donations for a fictitious charity organization and selected follow-up letters after the calls. The force exerted when hanging up the phone and the "tone" of the follow-up letters were used to assess reactive aggression. High aggression scores were associated with high directional asymmetry of 2D:4D and masculinized (low) right hand 2D:4D, only in females and under high provocation. Directional asymmetry of 2D:4D was positively correlated with T in males (pooled data, n = 97). Taken together, these data confirm the predominantly right-sided influence of androgens on digit length and suggest that digit length ratios may be associated with female reactive aggression when sufficient provocation is present.

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