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Br J Psychol. 2009 Feb;100(Pt 1):151-62. doi: 10.1348/000712608X324359. Epub 2008 Jun 28.

The presence of aggression cues inverts the relation between digit ratio (2D:4D) and prosocial behaviour in a dictator game.

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Department of Marketing and Organization Studies, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Leuven, Belgium.


Digit ratio (2D:4D) is a sexually dimorphic trait. Men have relatively shorter index (2D) compared to ring (4D) fingers than women. More masculine ratios are thought to be influenced by higher prenatal testosterone levels. In the present paper, we aim to show the context-dependency of the relation between 2D:4D and social behaviour. In two studies, we expose participants either to control or to aggression cues. Afterwards, they make a decision in a dictator game. Participants with low 2D:4D showed higher allocation levels (i.e. they were more prosocial) than participants with high 2D:4D in a neutral situation. However, this relationship inverts after exposure to an aggression cue. It turns out that in high 2D:4D people, aggression cues even increase prosocial behaviour. We call for future research which focuses on other plausible interactions between 2D:4D and context cues rather than on linear relations.

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