Digit Ratio Predicts Sense of Direction in Women
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0032816
The relative length of the second-to-fourth digits (2D:4D) has been linked with prenatal androgen in humans. The 2D:4D is sexually dimorphic, with lower values in males than females, and appears to correlate with diverse measures of behavior. However, the relationship between digit ratio and cognition, and spatial cognition in particular, has produced mixed results. In the present study, we hypothesized that spatial tasks separating cue conditions that either favored female or male strategies would examine this structure-function correlation with greater precision. Previous work suggests that males are better in the use of directional cues than females. In the present study, participants learned a target location in a virtual landscape environment, in conditions that contained either all directional (i.e., distant or compass bearing) cues, or all positional (i.e., local, small objects) cues. After a short delay, participants navigated back to the target location from a novel starting location. Males had higher accuracy in initial search direction than females in environments with all directional cues. Lower digit ratio was correlated with higher accuracy of initial search direction in females in environments with all directional cues. Mental rotation scores did not correlate with digit ratio in either males or females. These results demonstrate for the first time that a sex difference in the use of directional cues, i.e., the sense of direction, is associated with more male-like digit ratio.