Veronica De Michelis Psychological Study

Dear All,

Do you remember last summer, being haunted by a funny lady asking you to measure your personal performance in several domains? Here I am back again! No, do not worry, I am not announcing another crazy project, at least for the moment. I am writing you to thank you all for your patience and support and to tell you about the results of my research.

According to previous research (Manning et al, 2001) there is a relation between the digit length asymmetry (the ratio of the length between the second and fourth fingers in the hand or “2D: 4D ratio”), the testosterone level and the male ability in sport. For example, the better the performance of professional football players, the lower the digit ratio and the higher the testosterone level. The author concluded that prenatal testosterone and adult testosterone promotes the development and maintenance of traits which are useful in sports and athletics disciplines and in male fighting.

I wanted to assess if this was true for the BSA members. My study investigated the digit length asymmetry and the performance of two cognitive motor tasks (Purdue Pegboard task and Targeting Throwing task) on two independent groups of participants: 40 males of the BSA and 40 control males. Correlations between the digit ratio, the scores on the cognitive motor tasks of both groups and (only for the BSA group) results in competitions were investigated. I expected a negative correlation for the BSA group’s digit ratio showing higher testosterone levels compared to the control group and to the other cognitive tasks.

However the analysis of the data showed that the difference of the digit ratio between the BSA group and the control group was not significant. I know how you feel, I was as devasted as you! I could not believe such a fit bunch of guys as you didn’t show an outstanding level of testosterone! I formulated various hypothesis to explain this outrageous result!

One explanation is that the BSA group includes non-professional sportsmen, whilst Manning investigated in his studies only professional top-performers in a variety range of sports (Manning et al 2001, Manning 2002b). But this explanation did not fully convinced me. And I say it not only to avoid some members to have grounds to expel or retaliate on other members!

I discovered that somewhat surprisingly, the effect size for digit ratio between the sexes varies substantially as a function of geography and race. One might be tempted to speculate that racial variation in digit ratio may correspond to Ruston’s (1997) theory that populations closer to the equator are relatively more masculinised in uterus and have higher adult testosterone levels. By this reckoning, one might expect to find low digit ratios near the equator, and progressively higher digit ratios in populations farther away from the equator. Indeed, Caucasians tend to have higher digit ratios than do Blacks. In the light of this new field of research, it appears that the ethnic composition of the control group and the BSA group might have an influence in the values of the digit ratio. Although the study was conducted in the U.K. the control group was formed by people of various ethnic origins, maybe not perfectly matched with the BSA group composed by large majority of white Caucasian males. You can appreciate by far this second explanation, meaning your pride is safe, you are indeed a Caucasian-high testosterone-almost-near-equator bunch of guys!

Second, I compared the performance on two different cognitive tasks between the two groups. The Purdue Pegboard task is a precision manual dexterity task, which involves precise movements of fingers, hands and arms. You do indeed remember that funny wood-board instrument where I asked you to place as many nail as possible in the shortest time. What I forgot to tell you is that this is a typical female favourite task, otherwise I strongly doubt any of you would have agreed to do the test. According to the evolutionary theory, ancestral women developed a better ability in fine movements because of the type of work they attended (Kimura and Vanderwolf, 1970). Thus it was expected both groups not to differ much in the performance of the Pegboard tasks. In line with the hypothesis testing the differences between the two groups were minimal. Again, I strongly recommend not using this data with your wives for a good excuse to avoid helping at home. And this is because I would still like to have an opportunity to maintain my friendship with your gorgeous, patient, loving women, insane enough to follow you in the most extraordinary fishing adventures. Trying to find out why on earth we have chosen spearfishermen as husbands may well be indeed my next project!

The results on the Targeting Throwing task were significantly different between the two groups, matched in age and not distinguishable in height or weight. By looking at the results it was possible to convert the mean of targeting throwing in size of error of centimetres. The control group was 15 centimetres less accurate compared to the BSA group on both hands! This final result means that all of you have better targeting skills and the potential to beat your work colleagues playing darts at the pub, providing you are sober enough!

Finally, I compared underwater fishing individual scores of the BSA group with targeting throwing task.

By a direct observation, I noticed an outstanding superiority in targeting throwing of specific members of the experimental group. And in particular, the best performance was linked to those individuals well known also for their ability in the underwater fishing competitions. So I considered further analysis. I correlated individual results of the top 15 performers in the last ten years of competitions (1991-2001) and targeting throwing. Results showed a positive correlation between the individual results and targeting scores with the right and left hand. Meaning that those 15 performers are indeed the best in targeting throwing and have the higher results in BSA competitions. Unfortunately not all 40 members of the BSA group participated in the competitions for such long time, and so I selected a smaller number of participants. However I must warn you that I will not disclose those 15 names not even under torture, so you can have a joyful time name-guessing.

Thanks to your contributions, the project earned me a 2:1 degree in Psychology! This is the good news. The bad news is that I am now studying for an MSc in Counselling Psychology and I may well come back to “hunt” you all over again for some other crazy project. After all you are my favourite “experimental” group of people!

Many Thanks

Yours,

Veronica de Michelis