Finger length

JANUARY 23, 2009 (UPDATE: NOVEMBER 4, 2015)

Never underestimate your little finger: the 'pinky'!

Pinky finger research: curved pinkies, short pinkies, pinky troubles & pinky finger gestures!

Hand therapists say that the little finger relates to 50% of your hand strength. Scientific studies indicate that features of the 5th finger can be related to autism & neuroticism. In 2009 research from The Netherlands was presented in the journal 'Molecular Psychiatry' describing a relationship between clinodactyly (curved pinky) and autism, and in 2015 another Dutch study was presented describing a relationship between the overall development of the pinky finger and the Big Five personality dimension Neuroticism. What else do we know about the 'pinky' or 'pinkie' finger beyond the latest pinky finger research?

Author: Martijn van Mensvoort

What if you didn't have a pinky finger?
2009 Research: curved pinkies & autism!
2015 Research: short pinkies & neuroticism!
Common troubles with pinkies
Pinky hand gestures

Pinky finger research.

Pinky finger gesture.

What if you didn't have a pinky finger?

What would you lose if you didn't have a pinky finger? Often people consider the pinky (pinkie) as a decorative accessory of the hand. However, hand therapist will confirm that with losing your little finger you will lose about 50 percent of your hand strenght. Interestingly, sometimes the pinky is used for making hand gestures. But more often the little finger is featured with abnormalities which appear to be related to certain problems in body and/or mind. For example, only recently a Dutch researcher revealed that a 'curved' pinky is often seen in the hands of people who have autism!

The pinky, the humble fifth finger, is often considered as a bit of a decorative accessory: the little finger to crook daintily while sipping tea from a teacup. Compared with the other fingers the pinky doesn't carry the heavy burdens of the pointer, the index finger, which pokes things importantly and flicks through the Rolodex on urgent missions. The pinky also doesn't display your life's commitment with a belt of bright gold, as ring finger does. And the pinky doesn't, like the middle finger, succinctly communicate impudence or defiance.

"You'd lose 50 percent of your hand strength, easily," says Laurie Rogers, an occupational therapist who is a certified hand therapist at National Rehabilitation Hospital in Washington. Rogers explains that while the index and middle fingers function, with the thumb, in pinching and grabbing, zipping zippers, and buttoning buttons - the pinkie teams up with the ring finger to provide hand power.


Curved pinkies & autism

"The presence of small physical defects and the occurrence of autism often go together", says researcher Ozgen et al of the UMC Utrecht [University Medical Center in Utrecht, The Netherlands]. This conclusion is the result of a meta-analysis of seven studies (published in: 1975-2005) in which the characteristics of 330 patients and 328 healthy controls are integrated. Ozgen became PhD on November 28 (2008), and the results were published in the journal 'Molecular Psychiatry' (in january 2011 updated results were published in the journal 'Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders').

The most significant physical defects (MPA's) reported by Ozgen appear to be:

Clinodactyly: the curved pinky finger (5th digit).

Clinodactyly: the curved 5th digit.

• A 'curved' pinky finger (clinodactyly - see picture on the right);
• Toes slightly too far apart;
• Deformed ear lobes;
• A higher palate;
• Eyes slightly further apart.

These are subtle physical defects without medical meaning, and cosmetic surgery is usually not necessary. Ozgen noticed in her studies that these physical defects more often occure in patients with autistic disorders, compared to the healthy controls.

It is important to notice here that the clinical relevance of the 'minor physical anomalies' (MPA's) for autism is still not described very well; the 8 studies included in Ozgen's data-pool included (only) 12 to 19 MPA's.

NOTICE: Ozgen described that the occurrence of one or some of these abnormalities says nothing, but from an accumulation of 4 physical defects or more there appears to be a strong link with autism. No details appear to be available yet for the significance of certain combinations of MPA's. The presence of one single MPA should NOT be recognized as a 'significant' symptom of autism - because MPA's can sometimes also be found in persons who do not have autism!!

How surprizing is Ozygen's result on the 'curved' pinky finger in autism really?

Maybe not so surprizing at all! For, in time a curved little finger has been related to up to over 60 medical syndromes, including: Klinefelter syndrome, FAS: fetal alcohol syndrome (16% to 51%), and most common: Down syndrome (35% to 79%). However, one should also noticed here that the 'curved' little finger can be seen in the hands of normal & healthy people as well, statistics have been reported varying from: 1% to 19.5%.

Another interesting link between the little finger & autism has been presented a few years earlier by the author of the present article (van Mensvoort, 2000-2003): THE HAND & AUTISM. Research on the hands of 19 autistic young men has indicated that various dermatoglyphic features on the little finger + the palmar zone connected to the little finger can likely be related to autism:

• In the fingerprints: 'double loops';
• In the palmar zone: extra triradius d' + accessory loop; fused triradus; additional loop/whorl below the palmar triradius related the little finger.

NOTICE: More details about this dermatoglyphics research are presented in the article: THE HAND & AUTISM - including various references to other scientific studies which have related autism with fingerprints & palmar dermatoglyphics.

2d:4d Digit Ratio measurement method.

Last but not least: one can also notice here that it would be wise to evaluate the relationship between the 5th finger and autism in perspective with the 2D:4D digit ratio, because evidence presented by UK psychologist John T. Manning shows:

Autism is frequently featured with a 'low 2D:4D digit ratio' [= the ratio between the full length of the index finger (= 2th finger) & the full length of the ring finger (= 4th finger)].

How to measure the 'digit ratio' of a hand?

• STEP 1: measure the full length of the index finger 2D [from tip to palm];
• STEP 2: measure the full length of the ring finger 4D [from tip to palm];
• STEP 3: calculate the 'digit ratio' as the quotient of: 2D/4D.


Short pinkies & neuroticism

A study from The Netherlands has pointed out how the overall development of the pinky finger (combined with other hand factors) can be recognized to provide a significant clue for the Big Five personality dimension Neuroticism. In general, the results indicate that short pinkies are more common in high scorers for Neuroticism (= emotional instability); while long pinkies are more common in low scorers for Neuroticism (= emotional stability).

More details are available inside the article:
Hand chart: 12 hand signs in Emotional Stability & Neuroticism!

NOTICE: Very short pinkies represent also a common trait in Down syndrome, where the length of the pinky is often even shorter than half of the palm length.

Phantom pictures chart for the hands in emotional stability & neuroticism.

Phantom pictures chart for the hands in emotional stability & neuroticism; a phantom pictures chart for the hand in introversion & extraversion is available HERE.


Common troubles with pinkies!

In general one should be aware that congenital hand abnormalities are very often found in the little finger. The most common congential abnormalities in the little finger are:

Camptodactyly: curved finger.


Camptodactyly Concers a flexion deformity at the proximal interphalangeal joint; from the Greek "bent finger".

Clinodactyly: the curved pinky finger (5th digit).


Clinodactyly involves a bending or curvation of the finger in the plane of the palm is described as clinodactyly, a word derived from the Greek kliner, "to bend," and dactylos, "a finger".

(See also section: 'CURVED PINKIES & AUTISM!')

Polydactyly involves the presence of extra fingers.


Polydactyly involves the presence of extra fingers. Extra fingers can be associated with various conditions such as: Holt-Oram syndrome, fetal alcohol syndrome, Patau syndrome & Rubinstein-Taybi syndrome.

Single interdigital crease on 5th finger:

Usually the 4 four fingers have 2 horizontal creases which are related to the interdigital zone of the finger bones, but in some people a finger has only one single interdigital line . Normally, in healthy persons this hand feature is extremely rarely seen on the little finger. However, Rodewald & Wischerat (1979) have described that the 'single interdigit 5th finger crease' is a very common hand feature in: Down syndrome [trisomie 21] (26%), Edward syndrome [trisomie 18] (63% to 79%), Patau syndrome [trisomie 13] (5%), and only sometimes in other medical disorders.

Single interdigital crease on both 5th fingers in a person who has Down syndrome.


Concerns 'webbed fingers' which occures in about 2000 to 3000 live births, however usually syndactyly concerns a fusion of the 3th & 4th finger (the long finger and the ring finger); only in very small percentage of syndactyly the fusion concerns the little finger as well: see TYPE III & TYPE IV in the picture below].

Syndactyly: webbed fingers.

Pinky hand gestures!

An overview of some funny hand gestures related to the little pinkie (sometimes als named as the 'ear finger'):

'Give him the little pinky':

In Australia the RTA launched a "little pinkie"-campaign including women crooking their little fingers at young men in fast cars: the 'little pinkie' hand gesture infers the men have small penises.

Give him the little pinky.

'Hook 'em horns.':

In the United States college sports this hand gestures is associated with fans of the Texas Longhorns. Also, former US president George W. Bush (who lives in Texas) has frequently used the 'Hook 'm horns' hand gesture. In this perspective the 'horns' are related to the horns of a bull (sometimes described as Sign of the Horned God).

Be aware: in some other countries (Italy, Spain, Portugal & Brazil) this hand gesture may have the meaning of a sexual insult!

Hook 'em horns.
I love you sign.

'I love you sign':

Made using a combination of the letters 'I', 'L', and 'Y' from American Sign Language. It is made by extending the thumb, index finger, and little finger while the middle and ring finger touch the palm.

Be aware: this hand gesture is also the symbol used to curse someone in Italian culture!

Shaka sign.

'Shaka sign':

The Shaka sign - or: "hang loose" / "chilax" hand gesture - is a common greeting gesture, often seen in the beach and surfer culture.

Related sources:
Hand analysis research & autism
Sexe differences in the length of the little finger
Medical hand analysis: syndactyly, polydactyly & more hand abnormalities
Handedness & little finger length asymmety
12 Fingers and 13 toes: a world record!
Five Fingers Become Friends - a finger fairy tale
What our fingers can tell us
Giving Science the Finger
A secret your finger length reveals
Never underestimate your little finger: the pinky!

Next major section:
Yellow fingernails: causes & remedies!