Human Motivation & Affective Neuroscience Lab
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Latest News: 25 October 2018

New edited handbook on social neuroendocrinology

A new study by the HuMAN Lab, to be published in the journal Motivation Science, suggests that what people are motivated to do as adults may depend in part on the hormones they were exposed to during their prenatal development. In a study with a large sample, about half of them women, Schultheiss and colleagues determined participants’ motivational needs with a picture-story task and their prenatal exposure to testosterone and estradiol by measuring their ring finger length. Previous studies have shown that ring finger length is sensitive to exposure to testosterone and estradiol in the first trimester of pregnancy and stable thereafter when controlling for overall hand size. Typically, individuals with relatively long ring fingers were exposed to more testosterone and less estradiol prenatally; for individuals with relatively short ring fingers the opposite holds. Schultheiss and colleagues found ring finger length to be associated with individuals’ motivational needs for power and achievement. However, the associations were different for men and women and stronger overall in women. For instance, in women higher achievement motivation in adulthood was associated with shorter ring finger lengths suggestive of low testosterone and/or high estradiol exposure; in men the association tended to be reversed (see Figure).
Women with a particular variant of power motivation called inhibited power motive had a relatively longer ring finger on the right hand, compared to the left. Comments Schultheiss: “Our findings suggest that which incentives people crave in adulthood is rooted partly in the hormonal milieu that they were exposed to in the first three months of their existence. Our ring finger findings are just a marker for the effect that this hormonal milieu must have had on the developing brain.” As a next step, Schultheiss and colleagues plan study brain differences indexed by finger length variations and associated with motivational needs

David Winter
The figure shows ring finger length in relation to index finger length as a control for overall finger length on the left-hand axis (digit ratio). Higher digit ratios reflect shorter ring fingers, lower digit ratios reflect longer ring fingers. In women, variations in the need for achievement (n Achievement) were associated with shorter ring fingers; in men they tended to be associated with longer ring fingers.

Previous releases:

David Winter presents talk on the roots of war

Competition, aggression, and hormones

Women are more affiliation-motivated than men

Why the power-motivated are better at parking their cars

New meta-analysis: Low to no correlation between implicit and explicit motive measures

Content-coding motive measures can be approcimated with automated word counts

Exploiting the full potential of thematic apperception through profile analysis

High progesterone is associated with less coherent brains (August 2012)

What color naming speed reveals about the wisdom of one's goal choices (December 2010)

Are you high on testosterone and is that a good thing? Listen to Podcast of interview with Dr. Oliver Schultheiss on UM NewsService

New edited book on implicit motives available (October 2009)

What the word "not" may reveal about your ability to handle stress (October 2008)

Estrogen fuels female power (February 2008)

High-testosterone people reinforced by others’ anger, new study finds (February 2007)

Study finds US students more motivated to achieve, less power-hungry than German students (August 2006)

Are all people stressed out by a defeat or does it hurt some more than others? (April 2006)

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