The length of a person’s fingers could reveal whether someone is more likely to order ‘masculine’ food like burgers or ‘feminine’ food like salads, a new study claims.
Researchers looked at people’s 2D:4D digit ratios – the difference in length between the index and ring finger – and how this related to their food choices.
A lower 2D:4D digit ratio (having a longer ring finger than index finger) is said to indicate higher exposure to testosterone in the womb – and is therefore suggestive of masculinity.
In experiments, hungry people with low digit ratios made more masculine food choices – regardless of whether they were actually men or women.
Some have criticised the 2D:4D digit ratio for a lack of reliability – but this study does suggest it’s linked with food choices typically perceived as masculine or feminine.
A higher 2D:4D digit ratio (left) is said to indicate lower exposure to testosterone in the womb – and is therefore suggestive of femininity. A lower 2D:4D digit ratio (right) is said to indicate higher exposure to testosterone in the womb – and is therefore suggestive of masculinity. Researchers say it can successfully predict our food choices – but only when we’re hungry
When people were hungry, masculine digit ratios led to masculine food choices, the study found.
However, this effect only works when people were hungry – 2D:4D digit ratios did not effectively predict satiated people’s food choices.
2D:4D DIGIT RATIO
The 2D:4D digit ratio is a biomarker that reflects the level of testosterone a male was exposed to in the womb during pregnancy.
2D:4D digit ratio is the ratio between the length of a person’s index finger (2D) and ring finger (4D).
It’s calculated by dividing as ring finger length by index finger length.
A lower 2D:4D digit ratio is said to indicate higher exposure to testosterone in the womb – and is therefore suggestive of masculinity.
Meanwhile, a higher 2D:4D digit ratio is said to indicate lower exposure to testosterone in the womb – and is therefore suggestive of femininity.
Overall, this study hints at a wider link between prenatal testosterone exposure and eating habits as adults.
‘This research helps us understand whether bodily cues linked to sex hormone exposure may be associated with our food preferences,’ said study author Professor Tobias Otterbring at the University of Agder, Norway.
‘As people’s stated hunger levels were linked to different food preferences in our study, this suggests that hunger may moderate the connection between biologically-based factors and consumer choice.’
This study investigated the link between individuals’ 2D:4D digit ratio (a biomarker associated with prenatal testosterone exposure) and their inclination to make masculine food choices – and whether this potential association would be moderated by consumers’ levels of hunger.
‘A lower digit ratio is said to indicate higher prenatal testosterone exposure and a higher digit ratio is said to indicate lower prenatal testosterone exposure,’ said Professor Otterbring.
‘You can have a big difference between the length between your index and ring fingers and still have both a low and a high digit ratio.
‘The question is where this difference is – one person may have a long index finger and a short ring finger, while another person may have a short index finger and a long ring finger.’
For the study, researchers recruited 216 Chinese people, half of whom were women and half men, all with an average age of 27 years.
Participants for the study made a set of choices between food items that had already been perceived by a different set of volunteers as either masculine or feminine, on a 7-point scale (1 = feminine; 7 = masculine).
Scientists find a link between ordering ‘masculine’ foods (like burgers) and masculine 2D:4D digit ratios – but only when people are hungry
These food terms included shrimps (feminine) or lobster (masculine); Diet Coke (f) or Coca-Cola (m); and Caesar salad (f) or hamburger with chips (m).
There was a recurring theme to the ‘masculine’ food items compared to the ‘feminine’ ones – they tended to be bulkier, fattier and less healthy, indicating that men like to be perceived as risk takers when it comes to eating.
MASCULINE OR FEMININE FOOD?
Shrimps (f) or lobster (m)
Fillet of fish (f) or fillet of beef (m)
Diet Coke (f) or Coca-Cola (m)
Caesar salad (f) or burger with fries (m)
White wine (f) or hard liquor (m)
Participants had their 2D:4D digit ratio measured and also self-reported their gender identity and how hungry they were at the time of the study, before opting for their food choices.
The results showed that regardless of their gender, hungry consumers with masculine (low) digit ratios made more masculine food choices.
This association applied to both men and women – in other words, 2D:4D digit ratios were a more effective measure of what food they would predict than their actual sex.
However, hunger appeared to be the trigger for this effect to work.
‘The specific visceral state of hunger interacted with participants’ digit ratios to predict choices of masculine foods,’ the researchers say in their paper.
‘Although digit ratios are generally unassociated with gender-congruent food choices, consumers with masculine (vs. feminine) digit ratios are particularly prone to prefer and choose food options with a masculine gender image when they are hungry, but not when they are satiated.
‘Taken together, these findings expand the knowledge on when and how prenatal exposure to sex hormones may affect consumers’ food preferences and in which specific way a particular visceral state may moderate the link between biologically based factors and consumer choice.’
The team also found that consumers with feminine (high) digit ratios did not change their choices according to their hunger levels.
Drinking and dining items were intended to differ significantly in terms of their perceived gender image – for example, Diet Coke is specific to women, according to the research paper
One limitation of the study is that participants self-reported their subjective sense of hunger, which may have been unreliable.
‘While the hunger index showed satisfactory reliability and has been used in previous related research, the robustness of the findings should be tested in future work utilising more objective tools,’ researchers say in their paper, published in Food Quality and Preference.
Professor Otterbring also acknowledged the perceived limitations to the 2D:4D digit ratio.
‘It is indeed a debated measure, with some studies finding a link between digit ratios and testosterone levels, and with other studies failing to obtain such a link,’ he told MailOnline.
‘As such, it seems to be reasonable to interpret this link with appropriate caution, and to follow the development of this stream of literature.’
HOW CAN YOU MEASURE YOUR 2D:4D RATIO?
To measure your finger straighten it and look at the palm of your hand.
At the base of your index and ring fingers there are likely to be creases. Your index finger is likely to have one crease, the ring finger is a band of creases.
Select the crease closest to the palm and choose a point on the crease midway across the base of the finger.
Mark it with a pen. Measure it from the mark to the tip of the finger.
To measure your finger straighten it and look at the palm of your hand. At the base of your index and ring fingers there are likely to be creases. Your index finger is likely to have one crease, the ring finger is a band of creases