Evolutionary Psychological Science

, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp 316–324 | Cite as

Is Digit Ratio (2D:4D) Related to Masculinity and Femininity? Evidence from the BBC Internet Study

  • John T. Manning
  • Robert Trivers
  • Bernhard FinkEmail author
Research Article


Research on association between digit ratio (2D:4D; a putative correlate of prenatal sex steroids) and mental masculinity/femininity (Masc/Fem) has reported mixed findings. This may be due to differences in protocols for assessing 2D:4D and Masc/Fem across studies. Here, we consider the relationship between direct self-measured 2D:4D and occupational preference, and self-rated Masc/Fem from participants in a large internet survey (i.e., the BBC internet study). Men and women provided information about interest in occupations and rated themselves on Masc/Fem. There were significant sex differences in 2D:4D and occupational preference. Men reported lower 2D:4Ds and higher interest in “male-type” occupations, while women reported a stronger preference for “female-type” occupations and a higher 2D:4D. Correlations between 2D:4D and a composite score for “male-type” occupations were significantly negative for heterosexual men and women and for bisexual women. A composite score of “female-type” occupations showed only one positive correlation for 2D:4D (female right 2D:4D). Digit ratio was also negatively related to a composite measure of the difference between “male-type” and “female-type” occupations, and for individual occupations, the pattern of negative correlations was confirmed for “male-type” occupations. Self-rated Masc/Fem showed a significant sex difference (women < men). These relationships were independent of sexual orientation, age, and height. There were significant negative correlations between 2D:4D and self-rated Masc/Fem. These were stronger for women than for men and were independent of sexual orientation, age, and height. Thus, prenatal sex steroids may have an effect on the development of occupational preferences and self-rated Masc/Fem, especially for “male-type” occupations, with higher levels of androgenization (lower 2D:4D) leading to “male-type” occupational preference and higher self-rated Masc.


Digit ratio 2D:4D Masculinity Femininity Occupational preference Sex difference Sexual orientation 



We thank Richard Lippa for permission to consider the scores from the occupational preferences and self-reported Masc/Fem items from the BBC internet study. Robert Trivers thanks the Enhanced Learning Foundation and the Biosocial Research Foundation for their support. Bernhard Fink is currently funded by the German Science Foundation, grant no. FI1450/7-2.


  1. Beech, J. R., & Mackintosh, I. C. (2005). Do differences in sex hormones affect handwriting style? Evidence from digit ratio and sex role identity as determinants of the sex of handwriting. Personality and Individual Differences, 39, 459–468.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bem, S. L. (1981). Bem sex-role inventory professional manual. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.Google Scholar
  3. Csathó, A., Osváth, A., Bicsák, E., Karádi, K., Manning, J., & Kállai, J. (2003). Sex role identity related to the ratio of second to fourth digit length in women. Biological Psychology, 62(2), 147–156.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Hönekopp, J., & Watson, S. (2010). Meta-analysis of digit ratio 2D:4D shows greater sex difference in the right hand. American Journal Human Biology, 22(5), 619–630.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Lippa, R. (1991). Some psychometric characteristics of gender diagnosticity measures: reliability, validity, consistency across domains, and relationship to big five. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 61(6), 1000–1011.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Lippa, R. (1995). Gender-related individual differences and psychological adjustment in terms of the Big Five and Circumplex models. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69, 1184–1202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Lippa, R. (1997). The display of masculinity, femininity, and gender diagnosticity in self-descriptive photo essays. Journal of Personality, 65, 137–169.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Lippa, R. (1998). Gender-related individual differences and the structure of vocational interests: the importance of the “people-things” dimension. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 996–1009.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Lippa, R. A. (2001). On deconstructing and reconstructing masculinity-femininity. Journal of Research in Personality, 35, 168–207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Lippa, R. A. (2006a). Finger lengths, 2D:4D ratios, and their relation to gender-related personality traits and the Big Five. Biological Psychology, 71, 116–121.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Lippa, R. A. (2006b). The gender reality hypothesis. American Psychologist, 61, 639–640.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Lippa, R. A. (2008). Sex differences and sexual orientation differences in personality: findings from the BBC internet study. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 37, 173–187.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Manning, J. T. (2002). Digit ratio: a pointer to fertility, behavior and health. NJ: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Manning, J. (2008). The finger book. London: Faber & Faber.Google Scholar
  15. Manning, J. T. (2011). Resolving the role of prenatal sex steroids in the development of digit ratio. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 108(39), 16143–16144.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  16. 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, luteinizing hormone and oestrogen. Human Reproduction, 13(11), 3000–3004.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Manning, J. T., Fink, B., Neave, N., & Caswell, N. (2005). Photocopies yield lower digit ratios (2D:4D) than direct finger measurements. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 34(3), 329–333.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Manning, J. T., Churchill, A. J., & Peters, M. (2008). The effects of sex, ethnicity, and sexual orientation on self-measured digit ratio (2D:4D). Archives of Sexual Behavior, 36(2), 223–233.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Manning, J., Kilduff, L., Cook, C., Crewther, B., & Fink, B. (2014). Digit ratio (2D:4D): a biomarker for prenatal sex steroids and adult sex steroids in challenge situations. Frontiers in Endocrinology, 5.Google Scholar
  20. Prediger, D. J. (1982). Dimensions underlying Holland’s hexagon: missing link between interests and occupations? Journal of Vocational Behavior, 21, 259–287.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Rammsayer, T., & Troche, S. (2007). Sexual dimorphism in second-to-fourth digit ratio and its relation to gender-role orientation in males and females. Personality and Individual Differences, 42(6), 911–920.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Reimers, S. (2007). The BBC internet study: general methodology. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 36(2), 251–260.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Ribeiro, E., Neave, N., Morais, R. N., & Manning, J. T. (2016). Direct versus indirect measurement of digit ratio (2D:4D): a critical review of the literature and new data. Evolutionary Psychology, 14(1), 1–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Rogers, P., Caswell, N., & Brewer, G. (2017). 2D:4D ratio and types of adult paranormal belief: an attempted replication of Voracek (2009) with a UK sample. Personality and Individual Differences, 104(1), 92–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Smith, P. M., & Koehoorn, M. (2016). Measuring gender when you don’t have a gender measure: constructing a gender index using survey data. International Journal for Equity in Health, 57(11), 1244–1249.Google Scholar
  26. Voracek, M., Pietschnig, J., Nader, I. W., & Stieger, S. (2011). Digit ratio (2D:4D) and sex-role orientation: further evidence and meta-analysis. Personality and Individual Differences, 51, 417–422.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Zheng, Z., & Cohn, M. J. (2011). Developmental basis of sexually dimorphic digit ratios. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 108(39), 16289–16294.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • John T. Manning
    • 1
  • Robert Trivers
    • 2
  • Bernhard Fink
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Applied Sports, Technology, Exercise, and Medicine (A-STEM)Swansea UniversitySwanseaUK
  2. 2.Ecology and EvolutionRutgers UniversityNew BrunswickUSA
  3. 3.Institute of PsychologyUniversity of GoettingenGoettingenGermany

Personalised recommendations