Could events that take place before we’re even born really affect our future career choices? Pupils from Gloucester based Millbrook Academy are helping researchers from Swansea University to find the answer.
Staff from Cheltenham Festivals’ Education and Science teams went back to school to assist in a day of hand-scanning, designed to measure the ratio between pupils’ second and fourth fingers. Scans were taken from more than 400 pupils and will be matched with questionnaires completed by each pupil.
Research suggests that the testosterone we’re exposed to in the womb affects the ratio between the length of our fingers, and eventually the type of career we opt for.
A team from the Psychology Department at Swansea University, led by Professor John Manning and Dr. Steve Stewart-Williams, will be analysing the results to discover if the evidence in their hands matches the students’ future career aspirations.
Dr Stewart-Williams said: “If a person had high levels of testosterone in the womb (prenatal testosterone), their ring finger tends to be longer than their index finger. However, if they had lower levels of prenatal testosterone, the two fingers tend to be about the same length.
“Men are more likely than women to have a longer ring finger than index finger. There’s also some very interesting research which suggests that, among adults, people with longer ring fingers are slightly more likely to go into traditionally male professions, such as engineering.”
The researchers are interested in finding out whether, among teenagers, the finger ratio helps predict what people want to do when they leave school.
“While there are of course many factors which determine what job you want to do, our prediction is that prenatal testosterone will be one of those factors,” added Dr Stewart-Williams.
As well as assisting in the research, students were also encouraged to consider the importance of scientific methodology, and to understand the importance of controlled conditions, consistent research and the challenges presented by collecting data.
The Big Experiment has been made possible through a generous grant from EDF Energy.
Thanks to everyone that took part, and look out for the results at June’s Science Festival.