Minireview: Organizational hypothesis: instances of the fingerpost

Endocrinology. 2010 Sep;151(9):4116-22. doi: 10.1210/en.2010-0041. Epub 2010 Jul 14.


There is now compelling evidence that the ratio of the length of the second digit divided by the length of the fourth digit (2D:4D) is affected by prenatal androgens in humans. This ratio is greater in females than males from fetal life through adulthood, correlates with polymorphism in the androgen receptor gene in men, is feminine in XY androgen insensitivity syndrome, and masculinized in congenital adrenal hyperplasia. Using 2D:4D as a correlate, researchers have found evidence that prenatal androgens affect many sexually differentiated human behaviors, including sexual orientation in women (but not in men), attention deficit disorder, autism, eating disorders, aggression, and risk-taking. In each case, lower 2D:4D, indicative of greater prenatal androgen stimulation, is associated with behavior more commonly displayed by males than females. The correlation between 2D:4D and prenatal androgen stimulation is too imperfect to accurately predict the phenotype of a particular individual, even in terms of sex. However, digit ratio is the best available retrospective marker of average differences in prenatal androgen stimulation between groups of people, and/or correlations of prenatal androgen stimulation with particular behaviors and characteristics within a group. Thus digit ratios offer a valid test of the organizational hypothesis that androgens act early in life to masculinize various human behaviors.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Hyperplasia, Congenital / genetics
  • Adrenal Hyperplasia, Congenital / physiopathology
  • Androgen-Insensitivity Syndrome / genetics
  • Androgen-Insensitivity Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Androgens / metabolism
  • Androgens / physiology*
  • Female
  • Fingers / anatomy & histology
  • Fingers / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Receptors, Androgen / genetics
  • Sex Factors


  • Androgens
  • Receptors, Androgen