Skip to main content

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

Abstract

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.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    We use the term “risk-taking” in a broader sense to refer to all dispositions that are behaviorally indistinguishable from risk in the first-price auction such as anticipated looser regret (see Filiz and Ozbay 2007) or relative payoff concerns (see Morgan et al. 2003). For a discussion of experimental evidence for risk aversion in first-price auctions, we refer to Kagel (1995, Chap. 7 I.G).

  2. 2.

    Research on aggressive behavior and 2D:4D may also be suggestive for a potential connection between competition and 2D:4D. Benderlioglu and Nelson (2004) find a correlation between lower 2D:4D and the higher force of hanging up the phone and the choice of a more aggressive language of a letter after an unsuccessful charity solicitation in females but not in males. In contrast, Bailey and Hurd (2005) find that lower 2D:4D is correlated with higher aggression evaluated with a questionnaire in males but not females. We thank an anonymous referee for suggesting these references.

  3. 3.

    We thank a referee for emphasizing this point.

  4. 4.

    Subjects were allowed to select multiple majors and ethnic backgrounds. Thus, the means do not add up to unity.

  5. 5.

    For comparison, the distribution of ethnicities among all UC Davis students is 42% White, 38% Asian, 3% Black, 14% Hispanic, and 3% Others. See http://facts.ucdavis.edu/studentheadcountethnicity.lasso. We don’t know why we have a larger fraction of Asians in our sample. It could be that relative more Asians are enrolled in majors that we reached with our advertisements. We advertised mostly by announcements in big classes accessible to us, on Facebook, and through the distribution of leaflets. The experiment was advertised as a “market game”. Another reason could be that Asians were more attracted to our experiments. For instance, Loo et al. (2008) surveying the literature on Chinese gambling find that gambling is widespread preferred form of entertainment among Chinese.

  6. 6.

    For one subject, we accidentally measure the left hand. For this subject we include here the digit ratio of the left hand. Our results remain unchanged when we drop this subject from the analysis.

  7. 7.

    We include a cubic polynomial in order not to force bids to be a linear function of values as risk neutrality or constant relative risk aversion would require (see for instance Cox et al. 1988). However, we should mention that estimated coefficients for the quadratic and cubic terms are zero and our results do not change in any substantial way when omitting the quadratic and cubic term.

  8. 8.

    Our results do not change if the time period dummies are replaced by a time period regressor. Period dummies have the advantage of not assuming a necessarily linear effect of time.

  9. 9.

    For instance, see Sanders et al. (2005) for a mental rotation task. Perhaps more closely related to our study, Benderlioglu and Nelson (2004) find a correlation between lower 2D:4D and a behavioral measure of aggressiveness in females but not in males. In contrast, Bailey and Hurd (2005) find that lower 2D:4D is correlated with a higher survey measure of aggression in males but not females.

  10. 10.

    See Sect. 4 for a more detailed discussion of how the digit ratio may effect bidding and profits.

  11. 11.

    We thank an anonymous referee to encouraging us to study possible interaction effects.

  12. 12.

    The interaction with a dummy variable is more meaningful than an interaction with the value or the mean-centered value since the probability of having any particular value is relatively low. A value of zero is excluded by design and drawing the mean value is rare for a bidder.

References

  1. Archer, J. (1991). The influence of testosterone on human aggression. British Journal of Psychology, 82, 1–28.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Apicella, C. L., Dreber, A., Campbell, B., Gray, P. B., Hoffman, M., & Little, A. C. (2008). Testosterone and financial risk preferences. Evolution and Human Behavior, 29, 384–390.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Bailey, A. A., & Hurd, P. L. (2005). Finger length ratio (2D:4D) correlates with physical aggression in men but not women. Biological Psychology, 68, 215–222.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Benderlioglu, Z., & Nelson, R. J. (2004). Digit length ratios predict reactive aggression in women, but not in men. Hormones and Behavior, 46, 558–564.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Blau, F., & Kahn, L. (2000). Gender differences in pay. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 14, 75–99.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Brañas Garza, P., & Rustichini, A. (2011). Organizing effects of testosterone and economic behavior: Not just risk taking. University of Minnesota.

  7. Cameron, C., Gelbach, J., & Miller, D. (2008). Bootstrap-based improvements for inference with clustered errors. Review of Economics and Statistics, 90, 414–427.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Casari, M., Ham, J., & Kagel, J. (2007). Selection bias, demographic effects and ability effects in common value auction experiments. American Economic Review, 97, 1278–1304.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Case, A., & Paxson, C. (2008). Stature and status: Height, ability, and labor market outcomes. Journal of Political Economy, 116, 499–532.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Cesarini, D., Dawes, C. T., Johannesson, M., Lichtenstein, P., & Wallace, B. (2009). Genetic variation in preferences for giving and risk taking. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 124, 809–842.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Chen, Y., Katuscak, P., & Ozdenoren, E. (2007). Sealed bid auctions with ambiguity: Theory and experiments. Journal of Economic Theory, 136, 513–535.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Chen, Y., Katuscak, P., & Ozdenoren, E. (2009). Why can’t a woman bid more like a man? University of Michigan.

  13. Coates, J. M., Gurnell, M., & Rustichini, A. (2009). Second-to-fourth digit ratio predict success among high-frequency financial traders. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 106, 623–628.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Cox, J. C., Smith, V. L., & Walker, J. M. (1988). Theory and individual behavior in first-price auctions. Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, 1, 61–99.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Dreber, A., & Hoffman, M. (2007). Portfolio selection in utero. Stockholm School of Economics.

  16. Dreber, A., Apicella, C. L., Eisenberg, D. T. A., Garcia, J. R., Zamoree, R. S., Lume, J. K., & Campbell, B. (2009). The 7R polymorphism in the dopamine receptor D 4 gene (DRD4) is associated with financial risk taking in men. Evolution and Human Behavior, 30, 85–92.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Filiz, E., & Ozbay, E. (2007). Auctions with anticipated regret: Theory and experiment. American Economic Review, 97, 1407–1418.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Fischbacher, U. (2007). z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments. Experimental Economics, 10, 171–178.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Garbarino, E., Slonim, R., & Sydnor, J. (2011). Digit ratios (2D:4D) as predictors of risky decision making for both sexes. Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, 42, 1–26.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Greiner, B. (2004). An online recruitment system for economic experiments. In K. Kremer & V. Macho (Eds.), Forschung und wissenschaftliches Rechnen 2003. GWDG Bericht 63 (pp. 79–93). Göttingen: Ges. für Wiss. Datenverarbeitung.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Ham, J., & Kagel, J. (2006). Gender effects in private value auctions. Economics Letters, 92, 375–382.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Hamermesh, D. S., & Biddle, J. E. (1994). Beauty and labor market. American Economic Review, 84, 1174–1194.

    Google Scholar 

  23. Hönekopp, J., Manning, J. T., & Müller, C. (2006). Digit ratio (2D:4D) and physical fitness in males and females: Evidence for effects of prenatal androgens on sexually selected traits. Hormones and Behavior, 49, 545–549.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Hönekopp, J., Bartholdt, L., Beier, L., & Liebert, A. (2007). Second to fourth digit length ratio (2D:4D) and adult sex hormone levels: New data and a meta-analytical review. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 32, 313–321.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Kagel, J. H. (1995). Auctions: A survey of experimental research. In J. H. Kagel & A. E. Roth (Eds.), The handbook of experimental economics (pp. 501–585). Princeton: Princeton University Press. Chap. 7.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Kosfeld, M., Heinrichs, M., Zak, P., Fischbacher, U., & Fehr, E. (2005). Oxytocin increases trust in humans. Nature, 435, 673–676.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Krishna, V. (2002). Auction theory. San Diego: Academic Press.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Loo, J. M. Y., Raylu, N., & Oei, T. P. S. (2008). Gambling among the Chinese: A comprehensive review. Clinical Psychological Review, 28, 1152–1166.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Lutchmaya, S., Raggatt, P., Knickmeyer, R., & Manning, J. T. (2004). 2nd to 4th digit ratios, fetal testosterone and estradiol. Early Human Development, 77, 23–28.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Manning, J. T. (2002). Digit ratio. A pioneer to fertility, behavior and health. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  31. Manning, J. T., & Fink, B. (2008). Digit ratio (2D:4D), dominance, reproductive success, asymmetry, and sociosexuality in the BBC Internet study. American Journal of Human Biology, 20, 451–461.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Manning, J. T., & Taylor, R. P. (2001). Second to fourth digit ratio and male ability in sport: Implications for sexual selection in humans. Evolution and Human Behavior, 22, 61–69.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Manning, J. T., Scutt, D., Wilson, J., & Lewis-Jones, D. I. (1998). The ratio of 2nd to 4th digit length: A predictor of sperm numbers and concentrations of testosterone, lutenizing hormones and oestrogen. Human Reproduction, 13, 3000–3004.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Manning, J. T., Barley, L., Lewis-Jones, I., Walton, J., Trivers, R. L., Thornhill, R., Singh, D., Rhode, P., Bereckzei, T., Henzi, P., Soler, M., & Sved, A. (2002). The 2nd to 4th digit ratio, sexual dimorphism, population differences and reproductive success: Evidence for sexually antagonistic genes. Evolution and Human Behavior, 21, 163–183.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Manning, J. T., Henzi, P., & Venkatramana, P. (2003). 2nd to 4th digit ratio: ethnic differences and family size in English, Indian and South African populations. Annals of Human Biology, 30, 579–588.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Manning, J. T., Stewart, A., Bundred, P. E., & Trivers, R. L. (2004). Sex and ethnic differences in 2nd to 4th digit ratio of children. Early Human Development, 80, 161–168.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Mazur, A., & Booth, A. (1998). Testosterone and dominance in men. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 21, 353–397.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. McIntyre, M. H., Barrett, E. S., McDermott, R., Johnson, D. D. P., Cowden, J., & Rosen, S. P. (2007a). Finger length ratio (2D:4D) and sex differences in aggression during a simulated war game. Personality and Individual Differences, 42, 755–764.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. McIntyre, M. H., Chapman, J. F., Lipson, S. F., & Ellison, P. R. (2007b). Index-to-ring finger length ratio (2D:4D) predicts levels of salivary estradiol, but not progesterone, over the menstrual cycle. American Journal of Human Biology, 19, 434–436.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Millet, K., & Dewitte, S. (2006). Second to fourth digit ratio and cooperative behavior. Biological Psychology, 71, 111–115.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Morgan, J., Steiglitz, K., & Reis, G. (2003). The spite motive and equilibrium behavior in auctions, contributions to economic analysis & Policy 2, Article 5.

  42. Paul, S. N., Bernet, S. K., Cherkas, L. F., Andrew, T., & Spector, T. D. (2006). Heritability of the second to fourth digit ratio (2D:4D): A twin study. Twin Research and Human Genetics, 9, 215–219.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Pearson, M., & Schipper, B. C. (2011). Menstrual cycle and competitive bidding. University of California, Davis.

  44. Sanchez-Pages, S., & Turiegano, E. (2010). Testosterone, facial symmetry and cooperation in the prisoners’ dilemma. Psychology & Behavior, 99, 355–361.

    Google Scholar 

  45. Sanders, G., Bereczkei, T., Csatho, A., & Manning, J. T. (2005). The ratio of the 2(nd) ro 4(th) finger length predicts spatial ability in men but not in women. Cortex, 41, 789–795.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Sapienza, P., Zingales, L., & Maestripieri, D. (2009). Gender differences in financial risk aversion and career choices are affected by testosterone. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 106, 15268–15273.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Schipper, B. (2011a). Sex hormones and competitive bidding. University of California, Davis.

  48. Schipper, B. (2011b). Sex hormones and choice under risk. University of California, Davis.

  49. Van den Bergh, B., & Dewitte, S. (2006). Digit ratio (2D:4D) moderates the impact of sexual cues on men’s decisions in ultimatum games. Proceeding of the Royal Society B, 273, 2091–2095.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  50. Zak, P., Kurzban, R., & Matzner, W. T. (2005). Oxytocin is associated with human trustworthiness. Hormones and Behavior, 48, 522–527.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  51. Zak, P., Kurzban, R., Ahmadi, S., Swerdloff, R. S., Park, J., Efremidze, L., Redwine, K., Morgan, K., & Matzner, M. (2009). Testosterone administration decreases generosity in the ultimatum game. PLoS ONE, 4(e8330), 1–7.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

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.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Burkhard C. Schipper.

Electronic Supplementary Material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

(PDF 138 kB)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Pearson, M., Schipper, B.C. The visible hand: finger ratio (2D:4D) and competitive bidding. Exp Econ 15, 510–529 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10683-011-9311-7

Download citation

Keywords

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

JEL Classification

  • C72
  • C91
  • C92
  • D44
  • D81
  • D87