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Fingers that know it all

Many, many years ago,when I was still at university, during that horrible pre-exams period where everyone used to hide at home, I took to documentaries. The DiscoveryChannel Type. And I remember that one of them presented a “scientist”  trying to predict the winner of a race based only in the relative ration of 2 fingers, the index and the ring finger (2D:4D), which supposedly had to do with a bigger or smaller testosterone presence in the womb during pregnancy. As you can imagine, I was more than astonished and I believed this would be nothing more than another slightly scientific overhyped story.

However there seems to be an awful lot of people dedicated to the study of the length of the fingers. It seems, also, that the difference in length of these two pals is sexually dimorphic. That is, is different for men and women. Now, look at your fingers, as the theory goes, if you’re in possesion of a Y chromosome, that is you’re a man,then the ring finger of your right hand should be a little longer than the index whereas if you’re a female, then they should be almost of the same length.  Now, what happens if it’s just not so? well…given that this measurement has been related to: (you might need to sit down now) autism, Asperger’s syndrome,sperm count, family number, age for myocardial infarct in men and/or breast cancer in women it can be that something not so good. A lot of funny things just because of two little fingers, right?

But, there’s always a but. And I wouldn’t believe so much of all those possible interactions. Among other reasons because as I have said a million times CORRELATION IS NOT CAUSATION.

Plus, and this is what I wanted to talk about today, without denying the more than obvious sexual dimorphism in humans I am more than fed up of those that try to search for biological proof to try justify certain differences and mostly show with them that female´s inferiority is…from birth. if not, just check the title of this article: . Good start. In women. Why ONLY in women?

In the introduction of the paper, we are informed that even though there’s yet no proof of the relationship between the fingers’ ratio and spatial orientation, it is very clear that spatial orientation is a dimorphic characteristic. And I wonder, based on what? For if they are referring to whatever form of spatial ability test, I hope they are conscious of the unconscious bias shown to exist behind a gender stereotype everytime men and women are set to compete. Women perform worse at maths and men at communication tasks whenever they are reminded of the prejudices and associations to their gender before they take the test, as Cordelia Fine brilliantly explains in her book Delusions of Gender.

Not only that,in their methods section they also explain how despite all the problems they encountered to track all the data from some of their subjects (some finger measurements were not recorded and some results from the orientation tests were also missing) they included ALL participants in the study. Participants that, by the way, belong to a WEIRD (Western Educated Industrialized Rich Democratic) population, which for most of these kind of studies means: american grad student. Not that representative of ALL men and ALL women in the world, is it?

To conclude I’d just like to clarify a couple things: correlation is not causation (and this applis to any kind of discovery or sicentific conclusion ); the ratio of your index and ring finger doesn’t predict anything per se and as much as some (among which, my beloved Simon Baron-Cohen, ((in)famous for his autism studies and fetal testosterone as the basis for the differences between men and women and for whom the autistic represents the maximum of masculinity) insist on it, mena and women are not so different when it comes to our capacities and when we are, it has more to do with education/upbringing than with a biological/genetic program.

And now, excuse me but writing about this has made me so sick I think I am going to get lost around because my feminine fingers predict that will be the most likely…and if so, I just hope not to meet Sr. Cohen.

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