Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Study: Aggressiveness determined before birth

Medical science has known for a century about the differences in comparative lengths between men's fingers and women's fingers. The thinking seems to be that the differences in finger lengths is a side-effect of the determination of sex of the unborn fetus (foetus).

Medical researchers at the University of Alberta, in Canada, have discovered that the difference between the length of the index finger of a man and the length of his ring finger (the one next to the baby finger) can tell how aggressive that person is, or at least his potential for aggression as an adult.

The shorter the index finger relative to the ring finger, the higher the amount of testosterone a fetus is exposed to in the womb and the more likely he will be physically aggressive throughout life, according to study author Dr. Peter Hurd.
"I think the findings reinforce and underline that a large part of our personalities and our traits are determined while we're still in the womb," he said.The report appeared in Biological Psychology.

I note that my index finger and ring finger of my right hand are almost identical in length, whereas my index finger is slightly longer than the ring finger on my left hand. I am more right-handed than left-handed, though I am left-dominated for some activities and sports.

I suspect that researchers are attempting to find an easy way to determine, perhaps even in the womb, if a child will grow to become an aggressive person (maybe even violent) or not. This harkens back to the nature versus nurture argument, with the Alberta study favouring nature.

I believe it would be unwise to discount environment and teaching by parents in the matter of aggressiveness.There is nothing simple about this subject. If aggressiveness were a simple matter of nature, then genetic manipulation of the fetus or even of the embryo should be able to correct a potential problem before birth.

If only as much money and effort were put into teaching young adults the needs of children and the ways of good parenting as is put into researching the lengths of fingers, the world would be a better place. But measuring the lengths of fingers is easier to quantify, isn't it? The ability to quantify something determines its testability, which means that sponsorship is easier to get for the studies whose results can be "proven," whether practical or not.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around

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