The hands we were handed down

Palmistry is hands down one of the biggest pseudosciences. I don’t think it would be hard to disprove posthumously from the lifelines of deceased people that there is really no correlation between their lengths and the lifespan of that person: It would also be handy to know how much money you’ll earn from your fate line, but that is really in your own hands. Actually, geneticists have found out that both longevity and income do have a strong genetic component as well, but I am digressing here. Can your hand really tell anything meaningful about you?

To begin with, there is digit ratio (2D:4D), which correlates with the amount of testosterone in the womb and is an (imperfect) indicator if you are more gifted in math and technology or in languages and understanding . This somewhat predictive of the personality trait agreeableness or T/F (in Myers-Briggs)

There is one idea in palmistry that did catch my attention: there are four basic hand shapes and they are correlated with personality. Only a few years ago I wouldn’t have wasted a thought on this idea, but since I have come up with a theory of personality based on the evolutionary mode of subsistence of our ancestors, I decided to do some research. After all, the shape of our hands is extremely important in the kind of work our ancestors did and they may well have been shaped by natural selection. Another kind of selection that may play a part is sexual selection. Researchers have found out that the attractiveness of a man’s face was correlated with how attracted a woman found his hands. And indeed, most women are highly interested in a man’s hands when getting to know a new potential date. So, what’s the story?

First of all, the types are conveniently labelled like Ayurveda doshas, which do reflect evolutionary types:

I checked out my own hands: I got Fire hands but N/hunter-gatherer personality type. So, the whole idea seemed wrong. I gave it another shot by checking out different personalities on the internet. It turned out that quite a lot of people did match this pattern, after all:

Two American presidents with Fire hands and SP/herder personality type:

Angela Merkel Earth/practical/SJ/farmer hands

Gal Gadot has Water/NF/gatherer hands

And so does Barack Obama

So, there seems to be some correlation. In order to get an idea how reliable an indicator hands may be, I polled people on Reddit with NF personality types.

About 43% of the respondents had NF/gatherer/feeling hands. It’s almost twice as much as with a random distribution not correlated with personality types. The second most frequent type would still be “hunter” hands. So, all in all almost 70% of them have long fingers instead of the more common short fingers.

I have seen hunter(-gatherer) hands being referred to as “piano hands”. Indeed, many famous piano players are hunter-gatherer types. Sergey Rachmaninov certainly had (huge) hunter hands.

I haven’t been able to find any research regarding selective advantages of hand shapes or finger length on the web. I can imagine that long fingers were highly advantageous for gathering (e.g. picking berries) and fine motor control, whereas shorter fingers were better adapted for strong grips and hard manual work.

Leave a comment if you tend to find these ideas true/untrue. I’d also be grateful for links to scientific research.

Originally published at on March 7, 2021.