Revealed: What the length of your fingers says about you, according to science
For centuries, palm readers have been promising paying customers that the secrets to the future are written in the lines of their hands.
But, while there are no real love lines waiting to be read, some scientists believe that our hands really can tell us a lot about ourselves.
More specifically, scientists have studied something called the 2D:4D ratio which is the ratio between your index finger and ring finger.
This ratio has been linked to everything from sporting performance and obesity to aggression and even psychopathic tendencies.
But not every scientist is convinced, so read on to find out what your hands might reveal about you.
Some scientists argue that the ratio between your index and ring finger, or the 2D:4D ratio, can tell you a lot about yourself
The difference between your fingers might seem pretty arbitrary but scientists suggest that it can be an indication of how you developed in the womb.
Dr Ben Serpell, a sports scientist from the University of New England and the Geelong Cats Football Club, told MailOnline that the 2D:4D ratio is associated with your mother’s hormone levels.
Dr Serpell explained: ‘2D:4D ratio is thought to be established in the womb as early as the end of the first trimester, and it is affected by prenatal testosterone exposure.
‘Given testosterone is an androgenic hormone, meaning it lends to what many would consider more “masculine” traits, women typically have a higher 2D:4D ratio than men.’
He also notes that prenatal testosterone is associated with testosterone sensitivity later in life.
Because of the ratio’s association with the male sex hormone, researchers often focus on traits that are believed to be associated with testosterone sensitivity.
A longer ring finger than index finger
If your ring finger is significantly longer than your index finger, this means you have a low 2D:4D ratio.
It is worth noting that men will almost always have a lower ratio than women because they are exposed to more prenatal testosterone.
But, if you do have an exceptionally low 2D:4D ratio as a man or a woman, then there might be some cause for celebration.
In Dr Serpell’s research, he identified a low ratio as a potential sign of success among ruby players, surgeons, and political journalists.
The reason was that testosterone responsiveness is linked to the ability to receive and process information.
He says: ‘We argue that 2D:4D might be predictive of ability to maintain focus. By extension, maintaining focus on a task we argue that those with a low 2D:4D become successful at that task.’
Rugby players like England’s Tom Curry might be known to have massive hands, but the ratio of their fingers might be just as important. Studies have suggested that there is a link between having a longer ring finger and success in rugby since testosterone sensitivity is linked with increased focus and attention
Other studies have also found a connection between a low 2D:4D ratio and physical fitness parameters among young professional footballers.
In 2021 an international team of researchers published a paper in BMC Sports Science, Medicine, and Rehabilitation, which studied 24 under-17 players to measure their fitness and finger length.
What they found was that the larger the ring finger was in relation to the index, the better the athletes performed in terms of strength and fitness.
But it isn’t all good news, as a low ratio has also been linked with several ‘negative’ traits.
A 2005 study of 298 students at the University of Alberta found that a lower 2D:4D ratio was linked with higher levels of aggression in men.
The researchers even found that men with lower ratios received more penalties over an ice hockey season.
Researchers found that students with a lower 2D:4D ratio were more aggressive and received more penalties for their behaviour over an ice hockey season. Perhaps the behaviour of Nicolas Roy (right) of the Vegas Golden Knights, seen here getting called for a penalty against Ryan Graves of the Pittsburgh Penguins (left), can be explained by his finger ratio
Perhaps most shockingly, a lower ratio has also been linked to opioid abuse disorder, antisocial personality disorder, and even psychopathic tendencies.
The researchers say that their findings suggest that psychopathy might be ‘biologically rooted’.
Dr Seyed Sepehr Hashemian, a psychoanalyst who worked on the paper, told MailOnline: ‘We were surprised to observe such a linear association between higher symptoms of psychopathology and lower 2D:4D-ratios.
‘The more an adult participant had signs of psychopathology, the more it appeared that this adult has been exposed to higher testosterone concentrations and lower estrogen concentrations during the prenatal period of life.’
However, he also points out that while testosterone might predispose someone to certain behaviour this is not their ‘immutable destiny’.
He adds: ‘While some traits associated with a lower 2D:4D ratio might be viewed negatively in certain contexts, they can also be advantageous in others, such as in competitive or challenging situations.’
From The Joker to Patrick Bateman (played by Christian Bale, pictured), psychopaths have featured in many famous blockbuster hits throughout the years but some scientists say that your finger length could show if you have psychopathic tendencies
A longer index finger than ring finger
On the other hand, you might have an index finger that is longer than your ring finger.
If this is the case then you have a high 2D:4D ratio.
In addition to being associated with the opposite of all the traits of a low ratio, some studies have looked specifically at this trait.
It is believed that a higher 2D:4D ratio is a marker of lower testosterone and higher levels of oestrogen exposure while in the womb.
Studies have suggested that a high ratio is linked to greater levels of pain in various situations.
In one 2017 paper researchers from the Medical University of Lodz found that out of 100 men and women who underwent reconstructive nose surgery a higher ratio was associated with greater post-operative pain in women.
But, on a positive note, in 2015 one study from the International Headache Centre, Beijing found that women with higher 2D:4D ratios were less prone to experiencing migraine headaches.
If your hands look like this then some scientists say you might have a lower pain threshold and be more at risk of developing obesity
One 2022 study also from the University of Lodz pointed to oestrogen and testosterone’s role in shaping sex-specific fat accumulation.
Women, one group of researchers said, tend to store more fat in their arms, legs, and thighs than men.
Based on this assumption the researchers then studied the finger ratios of 125 adults to see if this had any correlation with excess weight gain.
They found that a higher ratio was associated with the development of obesity in both sexes.
Does this really work?
This list of traits associated with finger size only scratches the surface of the thousands of studies published on this topic.
The 2D:4D ratio has also been linked with sexual orientation, parental poverty, right-handedness, period pains, grip strength, jump height, and the chance of becoming a firefighter.
But if you’re beginning to feel like the 2D:4D ratio is associated with almost every possible trait you wouldn’t be alone, and not everyone thinks this is a good thing.
The basic issue, explained Dr Gareth Richards, a psychologist from Newcastle University, is that this all relies on the assumption that finger length is a good indication of prenatal hormones.
Dr Richards told MailOnline: ‘The evidence of this actually being the case is far from convincing.’
Scientists worry that measuring your fingers as this diagram suggests, doesn’t actually give any real indication of the hormones you were exposed to in the womb. Since this theory was first put forward there has been little convincing evidence to prove that it does
Measurements of babies’ hands and their mothers’ hormones have failed to produce any good evidence that the 2D:4D ratio is a good indication of whether someone was exposed to higher levels of testosterone
But if there is no good evidence that the 2D:4D ratio actually measures what it claims to, why are there so many studies claiming to have found links between finger length and different traits?
Professor James Smoliga, a physiologist from Tufts University, told MailOnline that this is due to something called the ‘file drawer effect’.
He says: ‘What happens is that people do a gazillion different measurements and, for most of them, there’s no biological cause and effect relationship.
‘But, just by dumb luck, something is going to come out as statistically significant.
‘The reason it’s called the file drawer effect is that if you find something statistically significant, you publish it, and if not you stick it back in the file draw.’
To prove his point Professor Smoliga created an experiment deliberately designed to find a fake connection.
He used X-rays to measure the finger bones of over 180 subjects and recorded both their body fat percentage and their luck in various totally random games.
What he found was that the 2D:4D ratio had a statistical association with body fat composition.
But it had an even stronger association with how lucky someone would be drawing random poker hands from a deck.
Obviously, Professor Smoliga wasn’t trying to prove that finger ratios make you lucky but rather that you can link the 2D:4D ratio to anything if you try hard enough.
Even though the statistical link is about as strong as anything else associated with the 2D:4D ratio, it was so small that it is more likely to be random chance than a real effect.
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HOW CAN YOU MEASURE YOUR 2D:4D RATIO?
To measure your finger straighten it and look at the palm of your hand.
At the base of your index and ring fingers there are likely to be creases. Your index finger is likely to have one crease, the ring finger is a band of creases.
Select the crease closest to the palm and choose a point on the crease midway across the base of the finger.
Mark it with a pen. Measure it from the mark to the tip of the finger.
To measure your finger straighten it and look at the palm of your hand. At the base of your index and ring fingers there are likely to be creases. Your index finger is likely to have one crease, the ring finger is a band of creases