Researchers studying verbal aggressiveness, which includes behavior like name calling, ridicule, insults, racial slurs and threats, say that they have tracked the nasty trait all the way back to the womb.
A new study, published in the Journal of Communication, found a link between a person's ring finger and index finger ratio to their verbal aggressiveness.
Researchers said that a comparison of the length of index and ring finger could be used to predict the levels of testosterone exposure in the womb. Scientists believe that testosterone exposure in the womb can be a determining factor of verbal aggression.
Lead researcher Allison Shaw, assistant professor of communication at the University at Buffalo, said that previous research has revealed that the 2D:4D ratio can be used to determine the exposure to androgens in utero (testosterone is a type of androgen). She said that a number of past studies have also found a correlation between the 2D:4D ratio and various physical and behavioral traits.
For example, a study published in July 2012 found that a woman's sense of direction correlates with the length of her ring finger to her index finger. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge found that women whose ring finger is shorter than their index finger have less of a sense of direction and are much more likely to rely to rely on satellite navigation technology to find their way round, whereas women whose ring fingers are of similar length to their index finger are better at navigation.
The researchers explain that finger length reflects exposure to different level of hormones in the womb, explaining why men generally have long ring fingers because they were exposed greater levels of testosterone in the developmental stage and women tend to have ring and index fingers that are similar in length.
Other studies have found that higher levels of men with more testosterone have longer ring fingers compared to their index fingers, and numerous studies have linked finger length to prostate cancer risk, athletic ability in men and arthritis and sexuality in women.
Researchers from the latest study predicted that if prenatal exposure to testosterone influences the 2D:4D ration and high levels of testosterone exposure in utero is linked to verbal aggression, then finger ratio could predict a person's likelihood for verbal aggression.
To test their theory, researchers first measured the finger length of adult participants to calculate each subject's 2D:4D ratio. Researchers then had subjected fill out the Verbal Aggression Scale and the HEXACO Personality Inventory and the Argumentativeness Scale.
The results revealed that across both male and female participants, those with smaller 2D to 4D ratio consistently reported being more verbally aggressive.
Researchers note that while verbal aggression can be beneficial up to a point, when used injudiciously, it may have negative consequences, like making it difficult for a person to maintain close personal relationships.
"These findings have implications for our understanding of the proximal and distal causes of verbal aggression," Shaw said in a statement. "They suggest that verbally aggressive behavior may be provoked by biologically based differences in people's attention to potentially threatening stimuli (such as a sigh), their appraisal of the stimuli as threatening and the resulting decision to respond and produce messages that are verbally aggressive."
Shaw and her team say that the latest findings could lead to new insights that can help overly aggressive people learn to control their behavior before it negatively affects their lives.