Experimental Economics

, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 510–529 | Cite as

The visible hand: finger ratio (2D:4D) and competitive bidding

  • Matthew Pearson
  • Burkhard C. SchipperEmail author


In an experiment using two-bidder first-price sealed bid auctions with symmetric independent private values and 400 subjects, we scan also the right hand of each subject. We study how the ratio of the length of the index and ring fingers (2D:4D) of the right hand, a measure of prenatal hormone exposure, is correlated with bidding behavior and total profits. 2D:4D has been reported to predict competitiveness in sports competition (Manning and Taylor in Evol. Hum. Behav. 22:61–69, 2001, and Hönekopp et al. in Horm. Behav. 49:545–549, 2006), risk aversion in lottery tasks (Dreber and Hoffman in Portfolio selection in utero. Stockholm School of Economics, 2007; Garbarino et al. in J. Risk Uncertain. 42:1–26, 2011), and the average profitability of high-frequency traders in financial markets (Coates et al. in Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 106:623–628, 2009). We do not find any significant correlation between 2D:4D on either bidding or profits. However, there might be racial differences in the correlation between 2D:4D and bidding and profits.


Hormones Digit ratio 2D:4D Risk behavior Competition Competitive behavior Auctions Bidding Endocrinological economics 

JEL Classification

C72 C91 C92 D44 D81 D87 



We are grateful to the editor, Jordi Brandts, and two anonymous referees for very helpful comments. We thank Yan Chen for providing us the z-tree programs of her experiment. Financial support by the Institute of Governmental Affairs, UC Davis, and the UC Davis Hellman Fellowship is gratefully acknowledged. We thank Coren Apicella, Nicole Baran, Giacomo Bonanno, Anna Dreber, Doug Miller, and participants in the 2009 Workshop on Neuroeconomics and Endocrinological Economics at UC Davis. Moreover, we thank Gabriel Mathy, Wen Yong Tang, and Nick Zolas for excellent research assistance.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Economic Science Association 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsUniversity of CaliforniaDavisUSA

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