By BILL FERGUSON
KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS
Hey guys -- have you been thinking about signing up for the Tough Man Competition the next time it comes into town, but aren't sure if you really have the "killer instinct" you'd need to beat another man senseless? Good news! Scientists have discovered a simple method to determine whether you were born to be a lover, or a fighter.
OK, here's what you do. Hold out your hand and look at your fingers. Is your index finger noticeably shorter than your ring finger? If so, then you are most likely the kind of guy who prefers to let his fists do the talking when he finds himself in a tight spot.
At least that's the conclusion drawn by a Canadian research team after they surveyed about 300 college students and noted a definitive link between the length of a man's index finger and his tendency toward physical aggression.
Their theory is that short index finger length and increased physical aggressiveness are both caused by exposure to high levels of testosterone in the womb. So the one characteristic "points" the way to the other, so to speak.
Previous studies have shown that men with shorter index fingers are likely to excel in sports and to be perceived as more dominant and masculine by women. Unfortunately, short-fingered guys are also thought to be more prone to autism, immune deficiency disorders and heart disease.
They also found that the finger length test does not indicate a man's tendency toward non-physical forms of aggression, and it does not seem to apply to females at all.
In my case, the two fingers in question are about the same length, so I guess that means that my decision not to pursue a career in professional boxing was a wise one. Actually the last fight I can remember having was in second grade, and my heart wasn't really even in that one. So I guess I fit the stereotype of the peace-loving, long-fingered male.
Heck, I don't like to see any living thing get hurt. I'm the kind of person who practices the catch and release system for bugs I find in my house. One of the most traumatic things I've had to do in my adult life was to put a small bird out of its misery after it severely injured itself in a freak bird feeder accident in my back yard. That experience still haunts me.
Of course, human behavior is extremely complex and you shouldn't assume a guy is dangerous just because he has a short index finger or that you have nothing to fear from longer-fingered guys. People do have the ability to overcome their natural tendencies, for better or for worse.
Still, the next time a guy seems to be losing his temper with you, it might not be a bad idea to take a quick glance at his hand. If his ring finger looks to be on the short side, you might want to be prepared to duck. But if he's one of us peaceable, symmetrical-fingered guys, you're probably only in danger of getting your feelings hurt.
X Bill Ferguson is a columnist for the Macon (Ga.) Telegraph. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.