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Verbal Aggression in People may be Biological

Update Date: Jan 08, 2013 06:35 AM EST

In a rather interesting research, scientists have found that verbal aggressiveness, which includes traits like name-calling, ridicule, insults, racial epithets and threats, may have biological causes, and these could be identified by the ratio of the length of a person's ring finger (second digit) to the length of the index finger(fourth digit).

The study has been conducted by a team of researchers led by Allison Z. Shaw, PhD, assistant professor of communication at the University at Buffalo, and is the first to use 2D:4D ratio (which is thought of as a measure of prenatal testosterone exposure) as a determinant of verbal expression.

The authors of the study "The Effect of Prenatal Sex Hormones on the Development of Verbal Aggression" include Michael R. Kotowski, assistant professor of communication, University of Tennessee, and Franklin J. Boster and Timothy R. Levine, both of who are professors of communication at Michigan State University.

According to Shaw, earlier studies have suggested that the 2D:4D ratio can be used as a measure of exposure to androgens in-utero (testosterone being a type of androgen) and a number of studies have shown a correlation between the 2D:4D ratio and various physical and behavioral traits, Medical Xpress reports.

For the current study, researchers first measured the length of the fingers of their adult participants and then photocopied each hand, palm down, and made the same measurements. With the help of these results, the researchers calculated each subject's 2D:4D ratio, after which the researchers measured the verbal aggression and argumentativeness in the participants.

The findings of the research revealed that people with smaller 2D:4D ratio were reportedly more verbally aggressive. Shaw says that verbal aggression may be a good thing at times for people; however, when used unwisely, it may provoke job loss, or make it more difficult for people to maintain close personal relationships.

"These findings have implications for our understanding of the proximal and distal causes of verbal aggression," Shaw says.

"They suggest, that verbally aggressive behavior may be provoked by biologically based differences in people's attention to potentially threatening stimuli (such as a sigh), their appraisal of the stimuli as threatening and the resulting decision to respond and produce messages that are verbally aggressive. This study is the first step in gaining a better understanding of this process," says Shaw, "and may allow us to develop more sophisticated techniques to inhibit such types of responses."

The study was published in the Journal of Communication (Vol. 62 No. 5). 

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