What your date’s hands can tell you

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By Erina Lee, Ph.D.

The physical appearance of our hands can give a lot away about us; whether it’s the wrinkles of age, or the calluses of a tough job. Many people believe that the lines and ridges on our palms can tell us even more about how long someone we will live, and what our love lives will be like.  Unfortunately, as much as we’d like to believe in these mystical ideas, they can’t be scientifically verified.

But before you start to mutter about ‘science ruining all the fun, yet again’, our hands can reveal interesting facts about us – just not in the same way that lady in a shawl at the funfair says they can:

Finger length
Look at the palm of your right hand – you will notice a difference in length between your index and ring fingers. Usually, women have longer index fingers compared with ring fingers, and men vice versa. This is called the 2D:4D ratio, and studies have shown it is linked to how much androgen (a sex hormone prevalent in men) a foetus is exposed to. It’s not entirely clear how androgen works, but it is thought to masculinise a foetus.

This has led to other studies asking whether this 2D:4D ratio (i.e. androgen exposure) can be linked to other characteristics. Hormone exposure has been linked to other things like health, personality, and attractiveness, but evidence supporting this has been mixed thus far. Famously, the 2D:4D ratio has been said to predict sexuality. However, some studies such as Williams et al, 2000 have shown no difference between heterosexual and homosexual men. But, other studies (e.g. Lippa)2003, found that heterosexual men have lower ratios than homosexual men (the study was not applied to women).

Finger ridges
Alongside finger length, the ridges on our hands that make up our fingerprints have also been extensively studied – this is called dermatoglyphics. As above, fingerprints are established early on in the womb. Studies have shown there are finger ridge differences between people with cognitive or genetic abnormalities (e.g,. Down’s syndrome), and those without. These kinds of studies support the idea that changes in the womb can manifest themselves in many different ways.

In summary, there is definite evidence to show that early exposure in the womb to certain elements (such as androgen) can cause changes in the hands. It would be nice and neat to link this straight to certain characteristics like personality or behaviour, but although we don’t have hard evidence for much yet, more studies are being carried out all the time. Watch this space.


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