Cheirognomy is the interpretation of the shape and structure of the hands. For example, most palmistry and hand analysis systems interpret a longer ring finger than index finger as showing (among other things) a "technical-minded" individual.
This week, the British Journal of Psychology partly confirmed this cheirognomy interpretation with a report on how the shape of childrens hands is connected with how well they do in mathematics.
Times Online: Scientists from the University of Bath found that seven-year-olds whose ring fingers were longer than their index fingers tended to get higher marks at maths. Though the results were due to the children’s brains, the shape of their hands appeared to matter.
The probable reason why owes nothing to palmistry. It is well established that the length of the ring finger, relative to the index finger, is affected by exposure to the male hormone testosterone in the womb. Men tend to have longer ring fingers, while in women the index finger is usually longer or both are about the same size.
There is some evidence that high testosterone exposure can improve spatial reasoning, and this skill is as useful in maths as in map-reading. The contours of the hand may thus be a signpost that is suggestive of mathematical ability.
But before you start looking at your children's fingers to see where they might excel, remember not to make too much out of this single hand characteristic.
This is valuable research that casts new light on how human physiology is influenced by hormones in the womb. But the information it reveals must be handled with great care, because the associations between fingers and physical or mental traits are only associations. They reflect averages that may apply at the level of the general population, but which mean little or nothing for individuals.
Thus, while it is tempting and well-intentioned to use traits like this predictively, perhaps to tailor educational strategies to children so they benefit most, that would be utter folly. Many children with the “wrong” finger profile are going to be perfectly good at maths, or even excel.
So once again, it takes more than just one characteristic or marking to make an accurate hand analysis interpretation.