May 24, 2007

Finger length and SAT scores

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).

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer


Anonymous said...

My ring finger is longer. My verbal and mathematical SAT scores were both high, but about the same.

Anonymous said...

And, don't forget about the 2D:4D ratio in relation to autism/Asperger's (ring fingers tend to be longer than index):

The 2nd to 4th Digit Ratio and Autism

Anonymous said...

And, don't forget about the 2D:4D ratio in relation to autism/Asperger's (ring fingers tend to be longer):

Daniel said...

At first I want to say thank you for the pposting, which me know more knowledge, my close friend on and my ring finger are long.

Anonymous said...

Que es este?

"Brand's colleagues in psychology also did not like him achieving publicity for his views. Thus for him to have articulated the long-standing (though little publicised) expert consensus that some forms of paedophilia are empirically harmless (when involving intelligent and uncoerced adolescents) was, his colleagues alleged, 'the last straw.' Yet what exactly was "disgraceful" in Brand's pointing to the empirical evidence about paedophilia -- or to the empirical evidence about race and single-parenting -- and indicating his conclusion that mercy should be shown to the accused Nobelist?"

- From the 1990s Chris Brand website, a link from your most recent article

Not only is the website a jumble that makes little sense with conflicting, half finished thoughts. It included this little gem about "paedophilia" which is where I stopped reading. I naively assumed the acceptance of man-boy love was a threat from extreme multiculturalists. I'm also very concerned about how one gathers the "empirical evidence".

From all reports, "paedophilia" is tolerated in Mexico...

Anonymous said...

I'd like to see a lot more research on this subject before signing on. Relative finger length may or may not have predictive results, if it does it should be easily replicable by independent studies.

It seems to remind people of phrenology which would also explain Steve why people are reticent.

Anonymous said...

A few genetic traits I'm curious about:

How many guys here have unusually thin wrists? I do.

How many of you can roll your tongues? I can.

How many of you have hands that, when relaxed, naturally curl up into a ball like they might when you are holding a broom handle or the handle of a mug? This isn't an effect of gravity. It occurs when you have your palms up, not only when palms are down. I'm not sure if this is common or not. It seems like some people have hands that sit fairly flat when relaxed. My fingers curl up completely.

Anonymous said...

Becky Gardiner's experience leads me to believe that female sexual ambiguity, like Nick Wade and Audacious Epigone wrote about, might be real.

Anonymous said...

There must be an echo in here....


(Sorry 'bout that!)

James said...

I have a fondness for lesbians.

Anonymous said...

"It seems to remind people of phrenology which would also explain Steve why people are reticent."

I think the problem is that studies like this undermine the fundamental postulate of modern liberalism, which is that all people are born essentially the same.

Liberals like to believe that a criminal is just an ordinary person who has easy access to guns. Or who went to schools that were underfunded. Or whatever.

Anonymous said...

I remember a few years back that the Discovery Channel had a piece on Index Finger Length and Sprinting. The doctors and researchers were talking about the very same things that this post is and they measured the Finger Lengths of different Sprinters. After they measured, the researcher then made his prediction on who would win (the Runners did not know who had the biggest and smallest differences) and he was right.

Pretty Interesting.

Stopped Clock said...

When I was a kid, I was mystified by how my ring finger seemed longer when my palm faced away from me, and vice versa when it faced towards me. Today I measured them and they are exactly the same length. According to the only official IQ test I've ever taken, my math IQ is more than double my verbal IQ.

Anonymous said...

I'm also curious about handedness among people here at Steve's blog. I'm kind of strange in this regard. I prefer my right hand for writing, but I can write almost as well (just a bit slower) with my left. As a child, I alternated between my left and right hands when writing until a teacher forced me to pick one hand. I've always used my right when using a fork or spoon. I prefer to use my left hand for most activities that involve projection. I punch left-handed. I throw balls left-handed. When I shoot a rifle, I shoot as a lefty, but when I shoot a pistol, I shoot as a right-hander. Go figure.

I have two brothers. One is a right-hander and one is a left-hander. Interestingly, my left-handed brother and I both had medical complications early on. He was nearly miscarried and I had a serious heart murmur as an infant. I've heard that such problems are more common among left-handers.

Anonymous said...

Stephen Jay Gould gets 75 hits on the Guardian site. Chris Brand gets 3 (three). He's abused in one of them, so here's another:

The Edinburgh Buffoon, Chris Brand, recently revived the ancient smear that this [the black-white IQ gap] must be due to genes and is hence unalterable. Substitute 'blood pressure' for 'intelligence' and his error is obvious.,2763,191890,00.html

TabooTruth said...

Ring finger like a millimeter longer, barely noticeable. Did 10 points less on verbal than math, so pretty much equal between both sections.

They actually did fantastic documentary on this on PBS (!) a few months ago. What he did was compare how males and females did on visuospatial tasks-using a crane to put something in a garbage can.

The males overwhelmingly dominated the women, even though no one had ever used a crane before. However, there was one woman who was able to do it. Her relative index finger length was substantially shorter than those of the other women in the study. She also said that she usually hung out with boys as a kid.

Also, the guy that ran the study got about 10 racers together than he never saw before. Based SOLELY on relative finger length, he was able to predict who would win the race and the place of everyone after him.

Biology matters. Do we even have free will?

What happened to the IQ gap discussions?

If you read the book "Why men don't listen and women can't read maps," they extrapolate this issue to all aspects of male female interaction. This topic is pretty fascinating.

Svigor said...

Cool post. I've never once heard about this finger length thing.

My index fingers are significantly shorter than my ring fingers (and my left ring finger is noticeably longer than my right). I scored roughly 100 points higher on the verbal than the math.

I'm a naturally gifted artist, and I've often wondered if that comes from the verbal side or the math side, or any side at all.

Tommy, I have thin wrists, though I wouldn't say unusually so; I can roll my tongue, if that means folding it along x or z axis - can't do that weird undulating thing; my hands naturally roll up about halfway - I'd need to go a good bit further to grab a broom.

Now, who can wiggle his scalp, his ears, etc?

Anonymous said...


Stephen Jay Gould gets 75 hits on the Guardian site. Chris Brand gets 3 (three). He's abused in one of them, so here's another:

That is absolutely pathetic. Brand has made some real contribution to psychometrics. Gould's only contribution to the IQ debate was to muddy the waters with fallacious arguments.


Tommy, I have thin wrists, though I wouldn't say unusually so;

I have the wrists of an Asian Indian. I would never make much of a bowler.

Now, who can wiggle his scalp, his ears, etc?

Not me, but I've heard wiggling ears often requires some practice. (Is this true?) I know that rolling your tongue is completely genetic. I can roll mine into a closed cylinder.

Anonymous said...

The Edinburgh Buffoon, Chris Brand, recently revived the ancient smear that this [the black-white IQ gap] must be due to genes and is hence unalterable. Substitute 'blood pressure' for 'intelligence' and his error is obvious.

The amusing thing is that hypertension is higher in blacks than whites, I believe, as are a number of other problems.

These, of course, might be partially mediated by environmental effects, but they are clearly genetic in origin.

Anonymous said...


I have a fondness for lesbians.

So do I. I'm a heterosexual man, and I find that we have one thing in common with lesbians: We both hate women because they are i) insufferable, and ii) they can always go for other men.



Anonymous said...

The one anomaly is that straight men are more likely to engage in gardening, which I would guess stems from gays being more likely to live in apartments without gardens.

"When Adam delved and Eve span,
Who then was the gentleman?"

This rhyme is one of the oldest known English Rhymes and can be dated to the English Peasant Revolt of 1381.

Gardening may be a substitute for farming.

Anonymous said...

Since somebody was interested, I'm a male reader, and my ring finger is longer than my index finger by about 5 mm. My verbal SAT score was indeed higher than my math score.

No, I'm not gay. Not that there's anything wrong with that.


Anonymous said...

P.S. In response to your post at the Inductivist:

I'm wondering if lack of gardening is just driven by gays tending to be apartment dwellers.

What if gays tending to be apartment dwellers is driven (in part) by lack of interest in gardening? People tend to choose homes that allow them to express themselves in ways they like. Maybe if heterosexual men didn't have to consult their women's wishes, the mismatch would be even higher.

Steve Sailer said...

A commenter on Inductivist likely solved the "gardening" conundrum by pointing out that lawn care is probably included under gardening, and lawn care is a straight guy obsession.

Anonymous said...

strong factors suggesting a non-wifey male is gay are (1) bright eyes and (2) jowly jowls. The jowls presumably have a feminine hormone component. The eyes seem more brilliant than female eyes.
I will try to absorb finger length into the model.

Anonymous said...

My ring fingers are longer, especially on the left hand. I am male, but my verbal score was higher than my math.
I understand the urge to deride a probably humorless and annoying feminist like Gardiner, but I would be very surprised if the claim women with longer ring fingers are almost always lesbians and/or that lesbians almost always have longer ring fingers turned out to be true. Why isn't Laura, Gardiner's friend who is lesbian but has a long index finger, as good a counter-example to the claim as Gardiner is an example in its favor? Both are anecdotes; I want data.

Anonymous said...

I read too quickly at first; Breedlove did provide the desired data, but still, I would want a more representative sample than "women attending a street fair in San Francisco," probably a heavily lesbian group to begin with.

Steve Sailer said...

"bright eyes"

Yes, in John Kennedy Toole's "Confederacy of Dunces," "glittering eyes" are a characteristic of the gay house party that Ignatius J. Reilly tries (unsuccessfully) to organize into a political movement.

Anonymous said...

While we are trading phenotypes...

Male. Ring finger longer. SAT-M: 660; SAT-V: 720.

However, I probably have higher spatial skills than is reflected on the SAT-M. When I was 14, I taught myself 3-D graphics programming which involved teaching myself a bunch of linear algebra and trig, and tons of mental rotation to get the math for the camera and viewing system right. Since about age 13, I've also been able to paint portraits at professional level. I used to have terrible problems writing essays for school, because it would take ages for me to put thoughts into words. My SAT scores seem backwards to me, but I got the same result both times I took it.

Oh, and my mother is bisexual/lesbian. That could have something to do with my visuospatial abilities.

Thin wrists? Check. Rolling my tongue? Check. Hands that curl up when at rest palm up? Check, but not enough to hold a broom, unless it's a very thick broom (I didn't know there are people who don't have this tendency). I am right-handed.

I also have a strange tendency to go after lesbian or bisexual women. This is not intentional. It just turns out the a large minority of women I have been interested in have not been straight.

Anonymous said...

I think I am going to stop looking at my fingers for a moment and fire off an e-mail to my Senators about the immigration bill Senator Boehner is honest enough to call a "piece of shit".

Anonymous said...

I know that my mother's index fingers are much shorter than her ring fingers. She has a masters degree in Math. However, she's temperementally (and to a limited extent politically) conservative- and preferred to home-maker. So dont know how much it advances the stereotypes.

Anonymous said...

My wrists are average, my ring finger is longer than my index finger by a mm or three, I scored moderately higher on verbal than math on my SAT, but I generally do well with spacial visualization, but I'm woefully uncoordinated, so sports are mostly out. Right handed, heterosexual, according to Steve's racial categorizations Scots-Irish, English, German, with a few Cherokee grandmothers.

I cannot do any tricks with my tongue but had many cousins (mostly female) who could do either the x or y axis tongue things plus the "undulating" or whatever.

I think most of the straight-vs-gay comparisons are secondary, mostly an artifact of urban vs. rural culture with gays being overrepresented in things like classical music and art galleries due to more urban numbers.

I like rock, country, hip-hop, classical and jazz, and am an active listener to all and go to classical concerts on a regular basis. Since I live in NYC I can do this more easily than almost anyone else in the country, so I am sure I skew the numbers.

For some fun anecdotal evidence, left handed people I have known seemed to have more health problem and were generally more "unique" in one way or another.

My sister has the dubious talent of being able to write longhand and cursive backwards and forwards with either hand, and mirror writing with both hands at the same time - truly a weird "gift".

I like isteve because of all these fun genetic speculations.

JedReport said...

You guys do understand that the SAT scores in question are the British standardised aptitude tests given to 6 and 7 year old kids, right? Not our college entrance exam? The study was based on 75 young kids (all of whom obviously are pre-puberty and haven't had their growth spurt, though i assume that finger length ratios couldn't change as you get older, unless they do).

Kalee said...

Okay I have been thinking about my hands and fingers since I read about the correlation of index and ring finger to SAT scores.

What if both hands are opposite. My right hand has a slightly shorter index finger. My left hand has a longer index finger.

I am just courious if this has any thing to do with anything.....

Contemplating the navel

Anonymous said...

people with short right index fingers date men. and people with short left index fingers date women.

ara133photography said...

interesting read. I'm a girl; my ring and index fingers are the same length. My SAT scores were MUCH higher in verbal than math :) my career type test from middle school said I should be a mechanic (I think because I could follow the patterns of gears); I'm INFP in myers-briggs.