Prenatal androgen exposure and female dominance

Martin A. Sharp, Martyn J. Matthews

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


In females the relationship between dominance and testosterone is notably under researched despite a similar, although not entirely straightforward, relationship being found in males (Kemper, 1990; Mazur and Booth, 1998). Drawing upon contemporary interpretations of sexual selection theory (c.f. Blaffer-Hrdy, 1999) and utilizing 2D:4D digit ratio as a proxy marker of prenatal androgen exposure (Manning, 2008) this paper explores sex differences in the relationship between digit ratio and dominance as a personality construct. 2D:4D was determined using digital Vernier calipers to measure the ventral proximal crease to the fingertip from photocopies of both hands in 117 right-handed participants (57 male, 60 female). Dominance was determined using the dominance subscale of the 16PF Cattell questionnaire. Results indicate that digit ratio was sexually dimorphic and dominance scores were significantly higher in males than in females. High dominance scores were significantly correlated to low 2D:4D (high exposure to fetal androgens compared to estrogens) in both males and females and the relationship was marginally stronger in the right rather than left hands. These findings, of an association between digit ratio and dominance, suggest an early biological underpinning to female dominance in a manner similar to that claimed for males.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 27 May 2009


  • androgens
  • female dominance
  • testosterone
  • sexual selection
  • sex differences


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