Finger length and SAT scores: From LiveScience:
Finger Length Predicts SAT Performance
A quick look at the lengths of children's index and ring fingers can be used to predict how well students will perform on SATs, new research claims.
Kids with longer ring fingers compared to index fingers are likely to have higher math scores than literacy or verbal scores on the college entrance exam, while children with the reverse finger-length ratio are likely to have higher reading and writing, or verbal, scores versus math scores.
Not me. My ring fingers are longer, but my Verbal SAT score was higher than my Math score.
Scientists have known that different levels of the hormones testosterone and estrogen in the womb account for the different finger lengths, which are a reflection of areas of the brain that are more highly developed than others, said psychologist Mark Brosnan of the University of Bath, who led the study.
Exposure to testosterone in the womb is said to promote development of areas of the brain often associated with spatial and mathematical skills, he said. That hormone makes the ring finger longer. Estrogen exposure does the same for areas of the brain associated with verbal ability and tends to lengthen the index finger relative to the ring finger.
Unfortunately, the article doesn't provide any numbers on how big the effect is, which is what I'd like to see. (So, maybe, my finger lengths aren't totally anomalous -- I do like numbers, but I'm just not all that good with them!)
This provides an opportunity to recall this extraordinary 2000 essay in the UK Guardian by Becky Gardiner:
Slight of hand
New research links finger length to homosexuality. But Becky Gardiner has heard it all before
Friday March 31, 2000 The Guardian
When I was 19 I had the misfortune to be taught by Chris Brand, a psychologist with a belief in genetic determinism bordering on the evangelical. At that point - this was 1982 - his book, The g Factor, which claimed there was genetic proof that black people had lower IQs than white people, was no more than a twinkle in his eye, but his lectures made me so angry that usually I didn't go.
Article continues On this occasion I did. He was banging on about innate differences between black and white, male and female even then, saying that black people had smaller brains that whites, and women's were smaller than men's, and that this explained all manner of social ills (black criminality, female underachievement etc). Despite my fear of speaking in front of large groups, I found myself standing up in the crowded lecture hall and arguing with him.
I can't remember what I said, but I remember Brand's response. He smiled a small, smug smile. He let me talk and talk and talk. Then he interrupted me. "Could I ask you a favour? Could you hold up your hand for a moment?"
I held up my hand, a defendant in the dock. Brand nodded. "Thought so." He turned away for a moment then, theatrically, spun round to face the 300 students in the hall again.
"You will observe that this student," he said, "has an index finger which is considerably shorter than her fourth finger. That this is a male characteristic is well documented." That was it. He took up where he had left off, and it was as if I had never spoken.
Meanwhile, 300 teenagers looked anxiously at their fingers. Most were immediately reassured - the men by their short fingers, the women by their longer ones. But not me. There it was, lying in my lap, the shaming short finger. I was not brave after all, but foolish; by speaking out, I had simply drawn attention to my "maleness". I had inadvertently come out as a freak, a weird man/woman.
That was years ago, and the episode, so humiliating then, has long been little more than a party piece for me. On the many occasions I have told the story, I have only ever found one other woman who has The Finger, and she edits the women's page of this paper [the leftwing Guardian -- i.e., she's another feminist-Steve]; Chris Brand would be delighted.
But I have obviously been mixing in the wrong circles. New research has found that homosexuality is linked to the relative finger length. Professor Marc Breedlove, of the University of California, Berkeley, reports in the current issue of Nature that the ratio between the index and the so-called ring finger is a measure of how much male hormone a mother has exposed her unborn child to. The professor studied the finger lengths of 720 adults attending a street fair in San Francisco. And guess what? Lesbians tend to have short index fingers. Short index fingers equal exposure to male hormones equals masculinity equals lesbian. Simple as that.
But when the finger-staring has died down, what will we have learned? What can a correlation between a woman's unusually short finger and her lesbian sexuality (or any other "masculine" trait she might display - assertiveness, strength, a big salary) really tell us? That homosexuality is genetically determined, so we shouldn't persecute those so afflicted? Well, maybe, but surely it's more likely that homophobes will be delighted that there is now such an easy way to spot their next victim.
And in our personal lives, how can research like this help us? Since my experience in Chris Brand's lecture hall, my finger ratio has been one of the only things about me to remain constant. I have sometimes spoken up for what I believe in, and sometimes not. On occasion, I have tried to sit like a lady while giggling at some man's silly jokes, but more often than not I have been loud and bossy and sat about in bars. Over the years, I have had lesbian relationships [emphasis mine-Steve] and heterosexual ones. Today, I live with the father of my child, as I hope to do for many years to come. Have social pressures driven me to this denial of my "true" self? And what of my good friend Laura, a lesbian with a long index finger - should she ditch her girlfriend and find herself a nice man? In the face of findings such as this, our personalities dissolve. Our struggles against a socially constructed male/female divide, our changing choices, are reduced to more or less comical struggles against our very nature.
Common sense tells me that brain chemistry, hormones and chromosomes have some bearing on who we are and how we behave. And like most mothers, I have been amazed by how fully formed my tiny daughter sometimes seems. But as for the geneticists who weigh our brains and measure our fingers and say they know what we are, well, two fingers to the lot of them.
Two fingers is an obscene gesture in Britain.
This is a good reminder that what really makes people in the media mad about stereotypes is not when they are wrong, but when they are right. Essentially, feminism, multiculturalism, and PCism are wars against knowledge.
Here's Chris Brand's blog. Here's Chris's huge "Psychorealist" website from the 1990s with some extraordinary material. And you can download his suavely philosophical book on IQ, The g Factor, here. (This book is different from from Arthur Jensen's book of the same name and time).