The link between hand span and height

Do tall people tend to have bigger hands than short people? Is height a reliable predictor of hand span?

From data collected from a sample of university business students (Boyle, Boyle & Booker, 2015), the graph below shows their heights plotted against their 1-5 hand spans.

This regression analysis indicates that there is a weak but clear relationship between a person’s height and 1-5 hand span (R2=0.41; p=0.00). In other words, although a person’s height provides a guide to their 1-5 span, it is not a perfect predictor. Note the extreme example in the top left quadrant of a person with a large 1-5 span (>9 inches) but with a height of only 63 inches (160 cm). And in the bottom right quadrant there are many tall people with relatively small hands, often smaller than the hands of much shorter people.

It is quite common to hear people wrongly concluding that because a person is small, they must have a small hand span, and conversely, a tall person must have a large hand span. A common example given is the great Spanish pianist, Alicia De Larrocha, whi was very short. Although her hand span was small compared to other (mostly male) concert pianists, she could in fact reach a 10th in her youth, so her span was larger than those of women with more ‘average’ hand spans.

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