Digit ratios (2D:4D) as predictors of risky decision making for both sexes
- 1.8k Downloads
Many important decisions involve financial risk, and substantial evidence suggests that women tend to be more risk averse than men. We explore a potential biological basis of risk-taking variation within and between the sexes by studying how the ratio between the length of the second and fourth fingers (2D:4D) predicts risk-taking. A smaller 2D:4D ratio has been linked to higher exposure to prenatal testosterone relative to estradiol, with men having lower ratios than women. In financially motivated decision-making tasks, we find that men and women with smaller 2D:4D ratios chose significantly riskier options. We further find that the ratio partially explains the variation in risk-taking between the sexes. Moreover, for men and women at the extremes of the digit-ratio distribution the difference in risk-taking disappears. Thus, the 2D:4D ratio partially explains variation in financial risk-taking behavior within and between sexes and offers evidence of a biological basis for risk-taking behavior.
KeywordsRisk Sex differences Experiments Testosterone
JEL ClassificationC9 D81
We thank Rachel Croson, John Manning, numerous seminar participants, an anonymous referee and the Journal of Risk and Uncertainty Editorial Board for useful comments on this project. Special thanks to Angelo Benedetti and Jason Cairns for invaluable research assistance. This project was supported by a grant from the Kauffman Foundation.
- Chen, Y., Katsucak, P., & Ozdenoren, E. (2009). Why can’t a woman bid like a man? Working paper.Google Scholar
- Cleave, B., Nikiforakis, N., & Slonim, R. (2010). Is there selection bias in laboratory experiments? Working paper.Google Scholar
- DeBruine, L. M. (2004). AutoMetric software for measurement of 2D:4D ratios, from www.facelab.org/debruine/Programs/autometric.php, accessed June 24, 2008.
- DeLeire, T., & Levy, H. (2001). Gender, occupation choice and the risk of death at work. National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper 8574.Google Scholar
- Dohmen, T., Falk, A., Huffman, D., & Sunde, U. (2007). Are risk aversion and impatience related to cognitive abilities? IZA Discussion Paper 2735.Google Scholar
- Dreber, A., & Hoffman, M. (2007). Portfolio selection in Utero. Mimeo, Stockholm School of Economics.Google Scholar
- Goy, R., & McEwen, B. (1980). Sexual differentiation of the brain. Cambridge: MIT.Google Scholar
- Harrison, G., & Rutström, E. E. (2008). Risk Aversion in the Laboratory. In J. C. Cox & G. W. Harrison (Eds.), Research in experimental economics, 12 (pp. 41–196). Bingley: Emerald Group Publishing Limited.Google Scholar
- Manning, J. T. (2002). Digit ratio: A pointer to fertility, behavior and health. New Jersey: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
- Manning, J. T., Baron-Cohen, S., Whellwright, S., & Sanders, G. (2001). The 2nd to 4th digit ratio and autism. Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, 143, 160–164.Google Scholar
- Sulloway, F., & Zweigenhaft, R. (2010). Birth order and risk taking in athletics: a meta-analysis and study of Major League Baseball. Personality and Social Psychology Review, Online April 30, 2010.Google Scholar