2D:4D ratios predict hand grip strength (but not hand grip endurance) in men (but not in women)

Liana S.E. Hone, Michael E. McCullough

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


In humans, the ratio of the second digit to the fourth digit - the 2D:4D ratio - is a sexually dimorphic trait (men, on average, exhibit lower 2D:4D ratios than do women) that is influenced by prenatal testosterone exposure, but not by circulating testosterone levels in adulthood. Consequently, 2D:4D ratios are commonly used as indirect measures of prenatal testosterone exposure. Many studies have examined the associations of 2D:4D ratios with sexually dimorphic adaptations that are thought to be influenced by such exposure, including physical prowess. The existing literature, however, remains unclear as to (1) whether 2D:4D ratios are more closely linked to strength or to endurance; and (2) whether 2D:4D ratios are linked with physical prowess for both men and women. In 100 men and 122 women, the relationship of 2D:4D ratios with maximum voluntary contraction (MVC) scores (hand grip strength) and maximum endurance time (MET) scores (local muscular endurance) using a hand dynamometer was examined. Controlling for age, height, weight, and average digit length, we found that 2D:4D ratios significantly predicted MVC scores in men, but not in women. 2D:4D ratios did not significantly predict MET scores for either sex. These results suggest that prenatal testosterone exposure in this sample is significantly related to hand grip strength in men, but not in women (and to local muscular endurance in neither sex), and, therefore, that strength, rather than local muscular endurance, potentially drives the relationship between 2D:4D ratios and physical prowess.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)780-789
Number of pages10
JournalEvolution and Human Behavior
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2012


  • 2D:4D ratios
  • Endurance
  • Physical prowess
  • Strength
  • Testosterone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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