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Identity &
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section heading icon     palmistry and finger ratios

This page discusses character identification on the basis of palmistry (ie the lines on a person's hand) and finger length ratios.

It covers -

It supplements discussion elsewhere on this site regarding Identity and Biometrics.


Palmistry (aka chiromancy, cheiromancy or chirology) is predicated on the belief that there is a direct and readily identifiable relationship between an individual's character and the markings on that person's hand, in particular the palm.

Some assign significance to individual features, which like the bumps in phrenology supposedly reflect specific attributes. Others more cautiously - or just more cynically, as complexity can be used to explain why the report does not match reality - claim that no one feature should be read in isolation but instead always be 'read' in relation to all other features.

Some use a taxonomy attributed to Casimir D'Arpentigny (1798-), whose 1839 La Chirognomie identified six basic 'hand types' -

  • the spatulate, conic and the square, based on fingertip shapes
  • the knotty and the psychic, based primarily on the 'quality' of the fingers,
  • the elementary, based on the overall 'crudity' and width of both the palm and the lines on that palm.

Many practitioners adopt a deterministic approach, asserting that the individual's fate is discernable through scrutiny of the lines and bumps on the hand. Others have resiled from that determinism - which smacks of sideshow fortune telling and cliches about gypsies demanding to have their palms crossed with silver - and offered assertions such as -

  • half of the palm is associated with the 'conscious' and half with the 'subconscious' mind
  • the index finger and the thumb are indicative of self-consciousness and willpower respectively
  • palm reading "can be successfully employed in the assessment of schizophrenics, manic depressives, imbeciles, mental defectives and congenital idiots".

One early reader of this page asked "if the hands are so special and the windows of the soul or the blueprints of the mind, what about reading the souls of the feet?".

Some people concentrate on patterns in fingers. Christopher Jones thus enthuses that

As unchanging and inherited patterns it is clear that our fingerprints are a set feature of consciousness. In a sense, they are the 'backdrop' or background features of the hand because they describe patterns of individual consciousness which are pre-set. The type of fingerprint pattern reveals the quality of consciousness inherent to that person and thus describes something of the fundamental characteristics of their of consciousness. As inherited patterns, they reveal certain inherent orientations, abilities or talents. In particular, they reveal a great deal about your personality and your psychological predispositions.


Palmistry - whether wrapped in New Age jargon about "Emotional Intelligence Quotient" and "Life's Blueprint" or otherwise - is not an archaic activity restricted to dotty grannies wearing tea-cosies or to gypsies in late-night tv reruns.

Cat McGuire, a practitioner of "shamanic palmistry", thus announces that

As a science, palmistry can explain the thousands of data points that, like fingerprints, are unique to your hand. As a healing art, the markings on your hand serve as esoteric entry points to tap into your personal mysteries and hidden truths.

You can gain remarkable insights about your life, including past, present, and future possibilities. By understanding your character patterns, strengths and weaknesses, you can make more positive choices in life and proactively shape your destiny.

Palmistry has a very real biological basis. The stem cells of the hands and the cerebral cortex develop at the same time, creating a life-long connection between the two. Your every thought is a chemical vibration that ultimately registers in the hands. The end result is that the hand is a perfect data printout of the brain, and is a remarkably accurate indicator of character, health, relationships, career, love life, and much more. ...

Take note, however, that just as an astrologer needs to know tangential details to form a true portrait of who you are (e.g., rising sign, moon, trines, etc.), a palm reader’s professional assessment likewise requires the analysis of the hand’s many reference points (e.g., color, texture, size, shape, flexibility, etc.).

All to say, the character type summaries below are just one component of the highly interwoven, multidimensional web of information locked in your hand.

Malaysia-based GeneCode International offers an IT-based 'Dermatoglyphics Multiple Intelligent Test' to "uncover one's congenital intelligence, character traits and discover one's hidden potential". Its technology identifies "4 dominant personality type, 5 Learning Style and 8 intelligences, 10 Intrinsic potential of brain [sic]" through scrutiny of palmprints (aka "our life blueprint").

The company modestly claims with that information it can

  • identify the unique learning style and characteristics of students, "therefore customising their own learning programmes that are suitable to their needs
  • "identify their inborn talents and eradicate their weaknesses, so that parents can reduce time and money spent on irrelevant courses and classes from elementary, primary, secondary, and tertiary education"
  • build children's confidence levels and instil good habits in their character development
  • improve the relationship between children and parents, hence making their childhood happy and productive
  • let you discover and understand your talents and abilities so that you can select a fulfilling career
  • let you harness your core competency so that you can discover your learning style and achieve greater leadership in life
  • improve relationships with friends, family and spouse, and in return, ignite the passion and motivate you to once again pursue your dreams
  • empower your staff and ultimately, help you discover and utilise their hidden talents for profits creation
  • offer Human Resource Pre/Post-employment screening and development and assist you in evaluating your management level for better productivity

One shudders to think what can be achieved by scanning an individual's buttocks!

A competitor claims that "your fingerprints are a wave energy imprint" and urges consumers to

Send LifePrints your fingerprints and a professional interpreter will identify their type, number, structure, and location. This will decode the Life Purpose Map that you have carried on your fingertips from five months before you were born. Within three days, a fifteen to twenty five page computer generated Life Purpose Analysis will be mailed to you.

The information contained in your LifePrints report will not be like anything you have ever read. It is not a psychological profile or a listing of your talents or capabilities. You may or may not recognize the person being described. That is because your report details the optimal you, the person you were meant to be. There is nothing so powerful as knowing your mission in life and being willing to live it.

Finding your Life Purpose, your reason for being, is the single most important thing you can ever do. From the beginning, your Life Purpose has been the guiding principle behind all the major events of your life. LifePrints unlocks the code.

Uh huh. It goes on to explain that -

Whatever one may call this wave energy that leaves its mark on your body - be it Soul energy, DNA, or the Life-Giving Breath of The Great Spirit - this indelible fingerprint map reveals your unalterable core psychology (your Life Purpose) in detail.


Some enthusiasts have recently argued that aptitudes are signalled by finger length, in particular by the ratio of the index finger (the second digit) and ring finger (the fourth). People with long ring fingers supposedly tend to excel in mathematics, physics and engineering - "they run well, draw well, are good at perceiving shapes and produce lots of high-quality sperm". Musicians supposedly have lower, more "masculine" ratios than the general public, glossed as "the higher ranking the musician, the lower the ratio".

UK academic John Manning is reported as claiming that "men who make lots of good music make lots of good sperm" and that

if you had a group of runners and they were about to start a race I could predict reasonably well who was going to win based on their finger length. But I would not be able to predict whether someone was neurotic or not.

Manning stated that "I simply cannot resist the flow of ideas that spring from established fact, circumstantial evidence and intuition", leading this reader to comment that some things are usefully resisted.

'Second-to-fourth digit ratio predicts success among high-frequency financial traders' by John Coates, Mark Gurnell & Aldo Rustichini in 106 Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (2009) 623-628 claimed that individuals who were exposed to high levels of prenatal testosterone - indicated by the magic ratio - tended to be more profitable short-term traders in financial markets. The claims are contentious and it is unlikely that banks or brokers will be measuring finger lengths, shoe size or other 'bioindicators' before they unleash people onto the trading floor in the near future.


For historical accounts see The Palmist's Companion: A History and Bibliography of Palmistry (Metuchen: Scarecrow Press 1992) by Andrew Fitzherbert.

Primers by contemporary enthusiasts include Your Life in Your Hands (London: Sphere 1967) by Beryl Hutchinson and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Palmistry (1999) by Robin Gile & Lisa Lenard. Gile describes himself as "Archetypal Symbolist & Consultant", a "Palm Reader, Psychic, Tarot Reader". Works from his peers - with or without crystal balls - include The Hand Book (Berkeley: Celestial Arts 1980) by Elizabeth Brenner, Career, Success and Self Fulfillment, How Scientific Handreading Can Change Your Life (London: Thorsons 1988) by Nathaniel Altman & Andrew Fitzherbert, The Living Hand (Wellingborough: Aquarian Press 1986) by Sasha Fenton & Malcolm Wright and their Palmistry, How To Discover Success, Love and Happiness (New York: Crescent 1996), Complete Illustrated Guide to Palmistry: The Principles and Practice of Hand Reading Revealed (London: Thorsons 1998) by Peter West, Palmistry - Apprentice to Pro in 24 Hours (Ropley: O Books 2007) by Johnny Fincham and History of Hand Analysis (Swan Paradise 1994) by Christopher Jones.

For enthusiasm about finger ratios see The Finger Book (London: Faber 2008) by John Manning, 'Examination marks of male university students positively correlate with finger length ratios (2D:4D)' by Maria Romano, Barbara Leoni & Nicola Saino in 71(2) Biological Psychology (2006) 175-182; 'Finger-length as an index of assertiveness in women' by Glenn Wilson in 4 Personality and Individual Differences (1983) 111-112; 'Finger length ratio (2D:4D) correlates with physical aggression in men but not in women' by Allison Bailey & Peter Hurd in 68(3) Biological Psychology (2005) 215-222; and 'Digit ratio and faculty membership between prenatal testosterone and academia' by Mark Brosnan in 97 British Journal of Psychology (2006) 455-466.

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version of November 2008
© Bruce Arnold
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