October 21, 2004

Scientists: Slaves to the hormones

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at October 21, 2004 3:15 PM

Arcane Gazebo correspondent and pornomaster Mason sends along the following item:

Index Fingers Point the Way for Male Scientists

Male scientists are good at research because they have higher-than-average levels of the female hormone oestrogen which aids analytical skills, a study on Bath University academics today revealed.

The survey found that male scientists tended to have longer index fingers than other men, indicating high levels of oestrogen present in their bodies.

Men studied had levels of oestrogen as high as their testosterone levels, which caused the right side of their brains responsible for spatial and analytical skills, to develop more strongly.

This study raises many questions: Does this mean that scientists are girlie-men? To what degree should Arcane Gazebo attempt to compensate for this by engaging in traditionally manly activities (like, I don't know, watching football or belching or something) to boost his testosterone? Or should he artificially increase his estrogen instead, in the hopes of becoming better at physics and thereby graduating earlier? And why is he talking about himself in the third person?


good god. if it's not phrenology it's palmistry. maybe i should go back to pure math.

distressed, i ran a quick pubmed search... unfortunately, there is actually a literature on this, although it stems from a study by a bunch of population biologists at Liverpool. (do we trust population biologists from liverpool?)

but more importantly - the thing about right hemispheres "developing more strongly" and thus making people with more estrogen better at "spatial and analytical skills" is absolutely ridiculous. Probably the stereotypical female hormone set causes the hemispheres to develop more "evenly" than men's, on a functional level. What this means for intellectual skills, etc, is arguable, and there's been no good conclusive evidence. (See Anne Fausto-Sterling's book _Myths of Gender_ for a nicely written review of that.) About the only thing that is well-established is that women tend to survive strokes better than men because their neural functions are more lateralized, so loss of part of one hemisphere is less devastating. Lateralization of function in the brain is so interesting and complicated and shadowy that I get really annoyed when people pull that "right brain left brain let's focus and get creative and use more than that 20% of the brain we usually use" crap.

Then again, perhaps my testosterone levels are just making me feel combative.
--Phi (eyeing right hand, on which the ring finger appears to be, if anything, a tiny bit longer than the index finger.)

Posted by: phi | October 23, 2004 11:11 AM

Damn! I'd already started taking the estrogen treatments! :)

Seriously though, I love when I get a comment that's more informative than the original article. One of the advantages of having a lot of collective expertise among my friends.

Posted by: Arcane Gazebo | October 24, 2004 1:42 PM
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