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Arch Sex Behav. 2014 Feb;43(2):311-8. doi: 10.1007/s10508-013-0169-y. Epub 2013 Jul 31.

Sex differences in college students' free drawings and their relationship to 2D:4D ratio and recalled childhood play behavior.

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  • 1Department of Psychology and Neuroscience Program, Amherst College, Amherst, MA, 01002, USA.


In a prior study, we observed that female-typical characteristics in elementary school girls' drawings were correlated with a feminized digit ratio (2D:4D), a marker for prenatal androgen exposure. However, this observation was limited to older girls, suggesting that social factors mediate the relationship between 2D:4D and drawing. To examine the hypothesis that the influence of prenatal androgen on girls' drawing is mediated by an effect of early androgens on sex-typical behavior, we examined 2D:4D, free drawings, and scores on the Recalled Childhood Gender Identity (RCGI) Questionnaire in a population of college students. Characteristics of participants' free drawings were assessed and those that showed sex differences were compared with 2D:4D and RCGI scores. Men had smaller 2D:4D ratios than women, used fewer total colors, used fewer pinks, purples, and blues, and had higher gender-typical scores on the RCGI. Women's drawings were more likely to contain flowers and animals and men's drawings were more likely to represent sports. Within-sex RCGI and 2D:4D scores were not significantly correlated. Significant within-sex relationships between 2D:4D and RCGI and drawing behavior were observed but the effects appeared to be independent; the hypothesis that gender-typical childhood behavior mediates the effect of prenatal androgen on drawing characteristics was not supported.

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