Sexual Orientation and Finger Length...again


Sometimes headlines really rub me the wrong way. This happens to be a consistent topic that always bugs me - finger length. It's interesting in that finger length is correlated with testosterone levels and that affects all sorts of cognitive abilities - but come on! Really?! Shouldn't they be spending their time trying to figure out how to ungay these people? (That was sarcastic by the way!)

Here's the first story from EurekAlert:

Researchers at the University of Warwick have found that sexual orientation has a real effect on how we perform mental tasks such as navigating with a map in a car but that old age does not discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation and withers all men's minds alike just ahead of women's.

The University of Warwick researchers worked with the BBC to collect data from over 198,000 people aged 20-65 years (109,612 men and 88,509 women). As expected they found men outperformed women on tests such as mentally rotating objects (NB the researchers' tests used abstract objects but the skills used are also those one would use in real life to navigate with a map). They found that women outperformed men in verbal dexterity tests, and remembering the locations of objects. However for a number of tasks the University of Warwick researchers found key differences across the range of sexual orientations studied.

For instance in mental rotation (a task where men usually perform better) they found that the table of best performance to worst was:

* Heterosexual men
* Bisexual men
* Homosexual men
* Homosexual women
* Bisexual women
* Heterosexual women

In general, over the range of tasks measured, where a gender performed better in a task heterosexuals of that gender tended to perform better than non-heterosexuals. When a particular gender was poorer at a task homosexual and bisexual people tended to perform better than heterosexual members of that gender.

However age was found to discriminate on gender grounds but not sexual orientation. The study found that men's mental abilities declined faster than women's and that sexual orientation made no difference to the rate of that decline either for men or women.

i-e58986b400863e6df1f746bc045ba294-funny_fingers_11.jpgAnd finally from ScienceDaily...

In a study to be published in the British Journal of Psychology, scientists compared the finger lengths of 75 children with their Standardised Assessment Test (SAT) scores.

They found a clear link between a child's performance in numeracy and literacy tests and the relative lengths of their index (pointing) and ring fingers.

Scientists believe that the link is caused by different levels of the hormones testosterone and oestrogen in the womb and the effect they have on both brain development and finger length.

"Testosterone has been argued to promote development of the areas of the brain which are often associated with spatial and mathematical skills," said Dr Mark Brosnan, Head of the Department of Psychology at the University of Bath, who led the study.

"[E]Oestrogen is thought to do the same in the areas of the brain which are often associated with verbal ability. "Interestingly, these hormones are also thought have a say in the relative lengths of our index and ring fingers.


This seems to be the source of the pictures if you're curious.

More like this

"but highlighting a correlation that isn't directly linked?"

Think of finger length ratio as a rough indicator of events that we cannot directly measure - namely, hormone levels during crucial periods in utero. It's a developmental biomarker. An imperfect one.

Let me see if I understand this...

Men are good at map reading, and women are lousy at it. But gay men are worse at it that straight men, and gay women are better than straight women.

This has nothing to do with men getting more practice at reading maps than women, and all those tested were scrupulously honest about their sexualities.

Gay men have less testosterone and more estrogen in their systems than straight men, but instead of making them look more female, have more body fat, have higher voices, keep their hair for longer, be generally weaker, be shorter or have wider gives them feminine brains instead of feminine bodies. All except for their fingers.

Right. I see.

...And yet here I am: an entirely heterosexual female, with a bang-on typical "heterosexual female" finger length ratio -- and I am excellent at map-reading (I always navigate on road trips) and at 3D visualisation skills.

Do any of these tests take into account things like "practice" and "expectation"? Aarrrgh.

By Luna_the_cat (not verified) on 24 May 2007 #permalink