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Biotech Science

Estrogen Linked to Research and Programming Skills 83

Neil Halelamien writes "Psychologists at the University of Bath have found that male researchers and programmers tend to have higher levels of estrogen, a hormone which promotes development of the right side of the brain (responsible for spatial and analytical skills). Increased estrogen was also linked to having longer index fingers and a decreased likelihood of having children. Men teaching mathematics and physics tended to have unusually long index fingers, while women in the social sciences tended to have more testosterone. The psychologists also found that male and female students with a smaller difference between their index and ring finger lengths tended to do better on their Java programming exams. The research leaves open the question of why women (who typically have more estrogen than men) aren't more prevalent in the science and technology fields."
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Estrogen Linked to Research and Programming Skills

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  • Oh, great. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Friday October 22, 2004 @04:48AM (#10596159)

    Does this mean we'll start getting spam for products to lengthen your index finger?

  • ..."and a decreased likelihood of having children."

    This explains a lot about geeks ;) Chicken or egg problem?
  • Another.. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 22, 2004 @05:04AM (#10596203)
    There also seems to be a link between the index finger, ring finger and sport abilities.. 1/ ringfingers.htm

  • "The psychologists also found that male and female students with a smaller difference between their index and ring finger lengths tended to do better on their Java programming exams."

    Gee, imagine finger length being correlated to programming skills.
  • by tod_miller ( 792541 ) on Friday October 22, 2004 @05:10AM (#10596220) Journal
    Psychologists at the University of Bath have found that male researchers and programmers tend to have higher levels of estrogen, a hormone which promotes development of the right side of the brain

    I guess this is why geek types are less macho. Of course, I am a typical muscle bound macho type, and will spend my nights trying to hack anyone who said otherwise, the only way I get my estrogen s through osmosis via genital contact like any other red blooded male.


    I can imagine spam for testosterone to develop you left side of your brain.

    The right side of the brain is commonly reffered to as the arty farty part of the brain, it is thepart that helps you recognise yourself in photos, which is why women take 1hr to get ready, but answer me this, why do geeks take less time to get ready than our estrogen deficient jock counterparts?

    Stereotypes aside, dyslexia is formed form dual activity in right and left sides of the brain, intellectual types often have dyslexia and geeks too, whihc may be because of hormonal issues and right/left conflicts.

    Or looking at too much p0rn. One or the other.
    • I prefer to take mine orally. ;)
    • by Singletoned ( 619322 ) <> on Friday October 22, 2004 @08:05AM (#10596812) Homepage
      dyslexia is formed form dual activity in right and left sides of the brain, intellectual types often have dyslexia and geeks too, whihc may be because of hormonal issues and right/left conflicts.

      I'd be interested to see where you got this information from. Currently there isn't even enough conclusive reasearch to say what dyslexia is, or even what all the symptoms are. A lot is known from experience of dealing with dyslexics, but most of the research done has been inconclusive.

      (I say this as a practising dyslexic my self).

      The British Dylsexia Association []

      • Well I do recall reading an article, I must say that my conclusion might be my own - I sometimes think on so many different threads it is hard to remember.

        I guess because I read that dyslexia occurs when a conflict of reading the words meaning and understanding the words shape.

        Like reading the word 'green' coloured purple, and someone asking you what colour is the word.

        Mark my words, if this was physics people would nod and say, sound reasonable, give the man a prize. :-)

        I am not dyslexic, but I am sure
      • Practicing? Practising to be more dyslexic, less dyslexic or is it you religion? (as in a non-pratising[insert-crazy-religious-type-here[or - sane-one]])

        Anyway, to address the issue - dyslexia is based on (or related to) right/left brain conditions accoridng to this research (below) and also hormonal conditions apply according to:

        Are boys affected more than girls?

        Three times as many boys as girls are affected, and the role of the hormone testosterone during the fetal stage is being investigated as a p
  • Before running out and stocking up on man-boobifier, please read up on estrogen [].
  • Pr()n (Score:5, Funny)

    by cL0h ( 624108 ) on Friday October 22, 2004 @05:19AM (#10596241)
    Males with higher levels of estrogen (what a difficult word to spell) would have lower sex drives andbe less distracted by all the lovely filthy pictures just a couple of clicks away......

    "I could finish this programming task or I could...... oh WOW, is that really possible"
  • by dan_bethe ( 134253 ) <slashdot@sSLACKW ... org minus distro> on Friday October 22, 2004 @05:28AM (#10596257)
    I think each of these two following documents I'm about to quote tread awkwardly on the reflexive difficulty of gender bias. Of course the primary failure is that they target one specific gender as being biased against, the targeting of which inherently creates bias. They try to define what bias is and isn't, and hence how "women are" and how "women aren't". But they're a decently relevant resource.

    Every gender bias related paper I've read is about why women are the inherent underdog, not about the nature of gender bias and programming. Gender bias and programming are inherently equal opportunity victimizations and aggressions perpetrated by society, by natural situations, and by self.

    The only equal-opportunity social anti-bias resource I've seen yet is VHEMT []. ;-)

    • In computer science, I got near the top marks for the year. I dated for 3 years a girl that also got the top marks out of the girls for the year.

      I found that while she was very book smart, she lacked what I can only term IQ. I don't know what the proper term is. In a degree you can get high marks just from studying hard, and so she did.

      My sample is too small though - I would be very interested in seeing any comparisons in reasoning, logic, and speed to pick up a new topic, and so on, between men and wo
      • Spatial Orientation (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Ian_Bailey ( 469273 ) on Friday October 22, 2004 @09:52AM (#10597493) Homepage Journal
        While I cannot say I have met a large enough sample size to distinguish between women and men, I have met lots of people who had great difficulties "getting" CS concepts. (And also certain theoretical math and physics) I would often understand the concept after just hearing the overview, while these people would have to be explained all the details to really understand what is happening.

        I believe the problem is spatial orientation []. Certain people can create an accurate representation in their minds, and thus can easily "see" the changes happening. In the article I linked to, they give an example of rotating a complex shape in three-dimensional space. Obviously certain concepts in CS (data structures, for instance) involve making a mental picture to understand what's happening, since you can't exactly touch the data.

        What I find interesting is how the theory mentioned in this article compares with this theory. According to the article above, only humans with very high or very low levels of testosterone enables humans to think spatially.

        In the article I linked to (and many others), there is a theory that men traditionally developped this skill so that they could map out where lunch was, track it and hunt it down, and how they would need to get back home once they had killed it. This is compared to the women, who would stay near home and 'gather' small berries which required more of a sharp eye.

        So my question is now, is did these early humans (which obviously must have needed good spatial abiliity) have high or low testosterone? And where are the high-testosterone guys that should be exceeding at spatial orientation now?
        • I've taken tests before that involve questions regarding manipulating mental images of 3D objects to judge abilities.

          It's a shame my mind refuses to solve the problem by making a mental image, but instead prefers to translate it to a symbolic problem, which I then find trivial to solve.

          Maybe I'm just strange.
          • What do you mean by symbolic problem? Aren't symbols visual themselves?
            • I can't remember the exact example, but they're generally something along the lines of "take a vertical dumbbell, red on top, blue on the bottom. Rotate it by 180 degrees along the X axis 3 times. Which colour is on top?"

              Some would solve this by visualising the rotation.

              I solve it as follows:

              R=a rotation of 180 degrees
              RR=a rotation of 360 degrees, which is the equivalent of no rotation


              RRR=R, and the blue is therefore on top.

              I'm probably explaining this badly, but suffice to say I get lost ea
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 22, 2004 @05:38AM (#10596276)
    Well this is so obvious that I can't believe I'm writing it, but

    A) researchers and programmers aren't exactly the crown monarchs of exorcise. Testosterone isn't just going to pop up out of nowhere while you're setting at a computer.

    B) when doing a test for 'which is greater', there will ALWAYS one side coming out ahead. It doesn't matter whether it has anything to do with the subject. I could do the same thing and test the facial hair of programmers, then conclude that having a beard makes you better at .net.
    • Well, there are a few contrasts that correlate with earlier findings, but for the rest you are completely right. This isn't exactly great research, at least not the way it's presented here.
    • I agree completely.

      Additionally, I was struck by the opening line "Psychologists at the University of Bath have found..." implying that they surfed through a ton of data and yanked out only the unusual statistical anomalities, completely disregarding established scientific method!

      Anyone can back-fit any popular theory for an irrellevant statistical anomality.

      The actual artical does little to disuade that concern for me.

      There are lies, damn lies and statistics {sorry, I forget whom I'm quoting.}
    • Yeah? And this is relevant to prenatal exposure to testosterone how exactly? RFTA.
    • I could do the same thing and test the facial hair of programmers, then conclude that having a beard makes you better at .net.

      No, that's Perl you're thinking of. Goddamn hippies. ;)

  • The research leaves open the question of why programmers don't relate to women better.
  • I was almost going to complain about the spelling, but I decided to check it first.

    oestrogen [] and estrogen are the same thing. It's spelt with an O on this side of the Atlantic (Ireland/UK).

  • by Evil Pete ( 73279 ) on Friday October 22, 2004 @07:13AM (#10596598) Homepage

    OK. The article is total bollocks here is the New Scientist version []. NOTE that it is referring to prenatal levels of hormones not the amounts flowing in peoples bodies when they are adults. Which means that a difference in levels of hormones hardwires the brain for programming, research whatever to a large extent.

    Also that the social sciences are where the 'normals' end up.

  • by Goth Biker Babe ( 311502 ) on Friday October 22, 2004 @07:37AM (#10596697) Homepage Journal
    ...why there are a disproportionately higher number of transsexuals in the industry than in other industries.
  • Abstract/creative sciences require a balance of concrete and intuitive thinking--programming is an art as much as it is a science. Not to say that highly gendered males don't grok art, but just that people who are somewhat cross-gendered in the womb (which is what the article was about) may well end up with more of a mixture of skills than their strongly gendered counterparts, allowing them to excel at certain tasks (programming, research, etc.) which require a combination of normally disparate skills.
  • by ivi ( 126837 ) on Friday October 22, 2004 @08:57AM (#10597079)

    From the Eugenics department... (even one of
    Australia's honored scientists - Mark Oliphant
    is said to have held eugenic thoughts in later

    Today brought news of another -dark- Australian

    Giving would-be-TALL girls -estrogen-
    to inhibit ("stunt") their growth!!!

    (The tall-popey syndrome has been with us - in
    many ways - for years over here, apparently...)

    Anyway, the study (which only looked at females)
    supports the conclusion that fertility is REDUCED
    in later life.

    "Victims" of early estrogen treatments have
    been calling for BANNING of the same.

    Now, has anyone done research on MALES...?

    Anybody (in Oz or elsewhere) been given estrogen
    to bring on earlier puberty, thereby stopping
    their growth in stature, who's later had issues
    when trying to procreate? (Men, I mean...)

    (Aussies continue to strike me as REALLY ODD;
    positioning their young women to be SHORT?!?)
  • Draw an outline of your left hand and it will be used to calculate with an error of +/-5% the score you would have gotten had this been more than a pre-school level task.
  • by dtfinch ( 661405 ) * on Friday October 22, 2004 @09:26AM (#10597276) Journal
    Programmers are more sensitive, balanced, horny, wealthy, and desperate than your average person. Just ignore the fact that some of our voices sound totally gay.
    • I have a very feminine voice at times when I do not pay attention to myself. I also have a scratchy bar room voice I made up so that I can sound like a deginerate instead of a fruit.
  • I read an article in a guitar magazine discussing how having a longer ring finger on the left hand gave you a distinct advantage in playing guitar, and since this implies higher levels of testosterone in the womb, was used to explain why rock and roll guitarists are just born to be wild.

    As with most sweeping generalities however, it is bollocks. My ring finger is significantly longer than my index finger, and yet I play guitar poorly, and conform more towards the usual "geek" stereotype than "rampant wi
  • I'm always surprised by scientists who take a few meager studies and fill in the huge gaps to come up with such generalizations. This study hasn't proven anything other than their interpretations of what constitutes a profession or field. Beyond this, the differences between finger length ratios cited in the full paper is very small, and close to the likely margin of error for their measurement standards. What constitutes the beginning of the finger for their measurements? The webbing? The bone underneath?
  • Finger length ratios have also been tied to sexual orientation -- homosexual men (like myself) tend to have longer index fingers relative to their ring fingers, whereas lesbians have more typically male finger length ratios. Which actually makes me wonder whether the reason the estrogen-enhanced researchers, etc, might be having fewer children (as mentioned in TFA) because more of them are gay.

    As I recall, research has also found that sex-atypical finger length ratios and homosexuality both were more pre
  • We're girlie men!
  • It has been known for some time that despite commonly being thought of as "female" hormones, estrogens are responsible for many of the behavioral qualities of "maleness." Studies done with male knockout mice missing estrogen receptors produce individuals that fail to develop normal male sexual behavior patterns. In the brain, testosterone is converted to estrogens through the action of an enzyme called P450 aromatase, and it is the estrogens that interact with cellular receptors and produce effects. The
  • Finnaly... (Score:4, Funny)

    by egarland ( 120202 ) on Friday October 22, 2004 @11:45AM (#10598642)
    ...proof that stupid people have a reproductive advantage over smart people.

    That explains a lot of things. :)
  • I believe that women are for more intelligent than men.

    First, I'll lead you with this idea: Einstein was really not that smart. In fact, it was his lack of intelligence but careful attention to details that made him a phenomenal physicist. Too often, a smart person will overlook interesting results because they don't seem correct. (How long before someone realized that the other answer to the square root is the positron?) Einstein was simple enough to examine the results closely, despite their odd initial
  • The question also arises as to why more women, who have this lower level of testosterone, are not in science, which is male-dominated, with only one in 40 science professors being a woman.

    I am reminded of the Computer Science curriculum where I went to school long ago. There was one unofficial but absolute requirement: Every programming student had to take Social Dance, on the theory that programmers (nearly all male, in those days) were naturally antisocial.

    I'm sure that long-term male discriminati

  • I suspect that estrogen levels have nothing to do with whether someone is better at these tasks or not. It's just that men with higher estrogen and lower testosterone tend to a) have less sexual desire and therefore be less concerned with sex than men with lower estrogen and higher testoterone levels, b) tend to be less attractive and geeky than other men and so have less success finding [a] mate[s], let alone reproducing, particularly during the formative years (such as high school and college/uni). These
  • Wow, so can I shove this in the face of all those people making fun of me asking "Don't you have any balls?!" when I order all those girly drinks?

    I suspect not, but still...

MESSAGE ACKNOWLEDGED -- The Pershing II missiles have been launched.