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Scand J Psychol. 2010 Apr 1;51(2):146-56. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9450.2009.00758.x. Epub 2009 Nov 24.

Investigating digit ratio (2D:4D) in a highly male-dominated occupation: the case of firefighters.

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Department of Basic Psychological Research, School of Psychology, University of Vienna, Liebiggasse 5, Rm 03-46, A-1010, Vienna, Austria.


Second-to-fourth digit ratio (2D:4D), a widely studied putative marker for masculinization through prenatal androgen exposure, is lower (more masculinized) in athletes than in general population controls, and athletes with lower 2D:4D have higher sporting success. Occupations differ markedly in perceived masculinity and actual maleness (sex ratios), but these givens have not yet been picked up and utilized in 2D:4D research. Accordingly, this study extended existing accounts on 2D:4D in athletes to a novel approach: 2D:4D and possible relationships to a variety of candidate variables (demographic, fertility-related, psychological, and other) were investigated in firefighters, a highly male-dominated occupation. Contrary to expectation, 2D:4D in firefighters (N = 134) was not lower than in local male population controls. Lower 2D:4D corresponded to lower service ranks. Replicating previous findings either unequivocally or partly, lower 2D:4D was associated with larger family size, later sibling position, left-handedness, and higher scores in the disinhibition component of sensation seeking. Not replicating prior evidence, 2D:4D was unrelated to body-mass index, offspring sex ratio, and sporting performance level. Novel findings included low 2D:4D in those with low relationship satisfaction and in cigarette smokers, especially among heavy smokers. Absolute finger length, a positive correlate of pubertal-adolescent androgen levels, was also considered. This marker showed negative associations with relationship consensus and satisfaction and positive ones with perceived quality of relationship alternatives and the experience seeking component of sensation seeking. The merits of this additional marker, relative to 2D:4D, for supplementing studies of possible sex-hormonal effects on personality and directions for future inquiry along these lines are discussed.

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