Finger lengths could point out technophobia

Researchers find links between long index fingers and computer anxiety
  • Liz Tay (PC World)
  • 29 May, 2007 16:53

The measurements of a person's ring and index fingers may come in handy in the early identification of developmental disorders, career paths, and behaviourial issues such as technophobia, psychologists claim.

In a comparative study of the finger lengths of 75 seven-year-old children with their Standardised Assessment Test (SAT) scores, researchers found evidence that finger lengths can accurately predict a child's numeracy and literacy abilities.

Longer "digit ratios'', which were calculated by dividing length of the ring finger by that of the index finger, were generally found in males with good numeracy skills. In contrast, girls tended to have shorter ring than index fingers, and fared more poorly in numeracy than literacy tests.

While finger lengths have long been a source of knowledge to palm readers and mystics, it is only in recent times that scientists have been able to link finger lengths with the sex hormones, testosterone and oestrogen, according to Dr Mark Brosnan, who led the study.

"Testosterone has been linked to spatial skills and mathematical skills, [and] digit ratio has been linked to testosterone," said Brosnan, Head of the Department of Psychology at the University of Bath. "So the question then was - does digit ratio relate to mathematical abilities?"

Scientists believe that high levels of exposure to the male hormone, testosterone, while a child develops in its mother's womb, promote the development of the areas of the brain which are often associated with spatial and mathematical skills.

Similarly, the female hormone oestrogen is thought to do the same in the areas of the brain which are often associated with verbal ability.

"Interestingly, these hormones are also thought to have a say in the relative lengths of our index and ring fingers," Brosnan said.

"We can use measurements of these fingers as a way of gauging the relative exposure to these two hormones in the womb, and as we have shown through this study, we can also use them to predict ability in the key areas of numeracy and literacy."

Longer index fingers could also be linked to a greater tendency towards what Brosnan has termed "computer anxiety", or "technophobia", which has been defined as a fear or anxiety towards technology.

And while it is unlikely that finger length measurements could replace SAT tests, Brosnan announced plans for further research into how digit ratio relates to a person's career path.

The early prediction of a person's natural disposition could perhaps be used to reduce anxieties to do with technology, and even open new avenues to technology-related careers, Brosnan said, should the person be willing.

"Those who are good at maths, for example, [might] enter numerate jobs," he predicted, noting that this hypothesis has yet to be empirically researched.