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Length of index and ring fingers differentially influence sexual attractiveness of men’s and women’s hands

Abstract

Humans show intra- and intersexual variation in second (2D) relative to fourth (4D) finger length, men having smaller 2D:4D ratio, possibly because of differential exposure to sex hormones during fetal life. The relations between 2D:4D and phenotypic traits including fitness components reported by several studies may originate from the organizational effects that sex hormones have on diverse organs and their concomitant effect on 2D:4D. Evolutionary theory posits that sexual preferences are adaptations whereby choosy individuals obtain direct or genetic indirect benefits by choosing a particular mate. Since sex hormones influence both fitness and 2D:4D, hand sexual attractiveness should depend on 2D:4D, a hypothesis tested only in one correlational study so far. We first presented hand computer images to undergraduates and found that opposite-sex hands with long 2D and 4D were considered more sexually attractive. When we experimentally manipulated hand images by increasing or decreasing 2D and/or 4D length, women preferred opposite-sex hands that had been masculinized by elongating 4D, whereas men avoided masculinized opposite-sex right hands with shortened 2D. Hence, consensus exists about which hands are attractive among different opposite-sex judges. Finger length may signal desirable sex hormone-dependent traits or genetic quality of potential mates. Psychological mechanisms mediating hand attractiveness judgments may thus reflect adaptations functioning to provide direct or indirect benefits to choosy individuals. Because the genetic mechanisms that link digit development to sex hormones may be mediated by Hox genes which are conserved in vertebrates, present results have broad implications for sexual selection studies also in nonhuman taxa.

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Correspondence to Nicola Saino.

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Communicated by T. Czeschlik

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Saino, N., Romano, M. & Innocenti, P. Length of index and ring fingers differentially influence sexual attractiveness of men’s and women’s hands. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 60, 447–454 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00265-006-0185-1

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00265-006-0185-1

Keywords

  • Attractiveness
  • Digit length
  • Digit ratios
  • Hand esthetics
  • Mate choice
  • Sexual selection