Human Nature

, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp 53–65

Fluctuating asymmetry and aggression in boys


DOI: 10.1007/s12110-998-1011-4

Cite this article as:
Manning, J.T. & Wood, D. Hum Nat (1998) 9: 53. doi:10.1007/s12110-998-1011-4


Fluctuating asymmetry (FA) is small deviations from perfect symmetry in normally bilaterally symmetrical traits. We examined the relationship between FA of five body traits (ear height, length of three digits, and ankle circumference) and self-reported scores of physical and verbal aggression in a sample of 90 boys aged 10 to 15 years. The relationships between FA and scores of aggression (particularly physical aggression) were found to be negative; in other words, the most symmetrical boys showed highest aggression. One trait (ankle circumference) showed the characteristics of “ideal” FA—parametric mean of zero and a normal distribution. Mean asymmetries calculated from six repeated measures of ankle FA in 30 subjects taken over a period of five months showed strong negative associations with scores of physical aggression which were independent of age, height, and weight.

It is argued that soft tissue “cyclical” FA (as opposed to “fixed” bony FA) is dependent on the secretion of hormones: for example, cortisol. Causal associations between behavioral traits such as aggresion and hormones will lead to similar correlations between FA and behavior.

Key words

Aggression Cortisol Fluctuating asymmetry Hormonal fluctuation Testosterone 

Copyright information

© Springer 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Population Biology Research Group, School of Biological SciencesUniversity of LiverpoolLiverpoolU.K.

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