Woo Begins in the Womb

Are you a bit girly?

Did you know that the ratio of length of your ring finger to your index finger is a marker for the amount of testosterone you were exposed to as a foetus? Testosterone is part of the process that turns little girls into little boys (that’s one of the reasons that men have nipples!). In males the ring finger is typically longer than the index finger and the larger that ratio, the more butch you are. It also turns out that the more butch you are, the less likely you are to believe in the supernatural.

recent study of  over a thousand Austrian men and women found that  a correlation between the digit ration and supernatural belief. Martin Voracek, a psychologist at the University of Vienna, found that the ratio of length of the ring finger to the index finger predicted belief. Voracek found that “higher feminized” digit ratio in men correlated with stronger paranormal and superstitious beliefs, even when controlled for age, education, adult height and weight, and birth length and weight. Shorter feminized digit ratios in women correlated with more superstitious beliefs, as did a woman’s lighter weight at birth. So it would appear that there is some biological basis for individual differences in supernatural beliefs as I have pointed out in SuperSense.

When I wrote a guest article for the Skepchik Blog, about why there are more female believers in woo, I got slammed down by a whole bunch of naysayers, (especially one sarky commentator) claiming that it was all to do with environment. Well, of course, there is usually some role of environment but if you haven’t figured by now, there is a little bit of the nativist about me.


Filed under Research, supernatural

20 responses to “Woo Begins in the Womb

  1. ptah

    Hormones in the womb IS environment you twit! 🙂

  2. brucehood

    Charming ptah!

    Where exactly in this post did I say otherwise?

  3. ptah

    It was an attempt at good-natured ribbing… hence the smiley.

    But you did complain that you “got slammed down by a whole bunch of naysayers, (especially one sarky commentator) claiming that it was all to do with environment.”

    And hormones in the womb can be considered environment…

  4. brucehood

    oh ptah… you are being pedantic 🙂

    Yes, hormones in the womb are environment and arguably so are genes (they operate in combinations switching each other on and off). And of course, hormone release is under genetic – in short, the division between nature and nurture as every 1st year should know is meaningless – genes always operate in environment… anyway I am not getting paid for this….. the ‘environment’ the naysayers were referring to was society.

  5. ptah

    Yeh, trying to separate nature from nurture is even more pointless than watching “x-factor”.

    And as I always say, let’s hope its genetic, then we can cure it. If it’s society there is no hope…

  6. Tessa K

    I’m feeling smugly skeptical as my ring fingers are longer than my indexes. And because of my heavier birth weight, but then I do come from a family of giants.

    I wrote a blog about why women are more likely to believe in woo (at least certain types of it – UFOs, conspiracy theories and anything involving collecting data tend to be more male woo) that a few people didn’t like. I might revive it now I’m guest blogging at Layscience (shameless plug) and see what reaction I get.

  7. brucehood

    Yes, Tessa… that’s my prediction too. I did write to a skepchik contributor to suggest it as a simple poll for their members. I also agree that males are more into conspiracy which could be argued as some threat response – hand waving madly as I speculate.

  8. hmmm…. a couple of years ago I blogged about finger length and homosexuality but danged it I can find it.

    I do remember comparing my son’s hand to his boyfriend’s hand and according to that hypothesis one of them is gay and the other is not 🙂

  9. brucehood

    Oh Nurse Myra,
    Lovely to have you drop by ..especially on a friday when I know you are so busy answering comments!

  10. Steve Page

    Just reading some of those comments on Skepchick – I do so love the way that people who know bugger all about the brain feel that their opinions trump the research. Actually, scratch that; it drives me nuts. I believe that Steve Novella refers to that style of argument as “The Arrogance of Ignorance,” which sums up some of the replies to your Skepchick post perfectly.

  11. I’m confused….

    My right hand appears to be way less butch than my left.

  12. brucehood

    NobblySan, that statement is just begging for a cheap joke!

  13. It’s just a shame that it usually falls to me to deliver said cheap joke. But as the joke is on me, then we’ll just have to make a fist of it, I suppose.

    Anyhow, this digit gender differential is definately down to nurture rather than nature, and can be traced back to an unfortunate incident involving carelessness, a Ford Mondeo driver’s door, an unfortunately positioned fingertip, and lots of leaping about and swearing.

  14. Tessa K

    Do you know if ghost hunting is more of a male or female interest?

  15. Hmm, I am either a woman or superstitious (or possibly both!).

    I’ve yet to see a study on gender and superstition that controls for social empowerment. Aarnio’s doesn’t, as I recall.

  16. ptah’s point is maybe pedantic in the concept of this discussion, but the extent to which phylogeny is determined by early environment (including in the womb) rather than by genome is a pretty interesting topic.

    For me, as a layperson when it comes to evolutionary biology, thinking about that helps me to grok how such diverse speciation can take place. The genetic “blueprint” is extraordinarily flexible, responding heavily to developmental environment. So instead of scratching my head saying, “How can you ever accumulate enough mutations to get a significant morphological difference and still have each generation be viable?”, it helps to think that a single mutation can cause a huge morphological difference because the phylogenic expression of other genes will change in response to the phylogenic expression of the mutation. If that makes any sense…

  17. Love “the arrogance of ignorance.” Wish that I had coined that phrase.

    Unlike Nobbly, I have not had a run-in with a Ford Mondeo door; however, my left ring finger is longer, but my right ring finger is shorter. Does that make me a skeptic who believes in some woo but not other woo?

  18. icicicles

    There seems to be some confusion here.
    Some are comparing fingers on both hands and the article states the ratio of length of your ring finger to your index finger. Again, that’s ring finger.
    I do believe that is the finger you ware a wedding ring.
    I also can’t help but notice the pictures of the hands are both of a right hand and not the left were you would ware your ring?
    Comments welcome.

  19. brucehood

    Well spotted icicicles…I guess it should not matter whether it is your left or right hand!

  20. interesting

    one of my hands has a ring finger than index and the other hand they are the same length lol

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