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6 Mar 2011

The link between height and success revisited

I have just finished reading the book Quirkology by Richard Wiseman. It is a fascinating read, full of curious facts about human psychology gained from serious (though often bizarre) scientific investigations. Quite apart from discovering that people born in summer are 'luckier' (bad news for me) and how to spot a liar, the book supported some of the good news for tall men, and tall people generally.

For instance, studies have shown that taller salesmen (greater than 6 feet / 180cm) earn more than their shorter colleagues, as do women of greater height (taller than 5'10"). There is also a strong tendency for the taller of the candidates to win in US Presidential elections, while in the UK, more popular election candidates were seen by the public as taller.

This all reflects "a connection between perceived height and status that is so ancient that it is embedded in our language. Respected men have 'stature' and are 'looked up to', quite literally. Tall men are seen as natural leaders, while short ones are pushy little people with Napoleonic tendencies" (their quote not mine!). In a survey conducted for a book written in 1987, both men and women, whether short or tall, thought that short men were "less mature, less positive, less secure, less masculine, less successful, less capable, less confident, less outgoing, more inhibited, more timid, more passive - and so on".

The good news for the less tall is that the connection between height and status works the other way around as well: people who are thought of as having 'high status', such as professors or successful politicians are seen to be taller than lower status peers. Successful people literally 'grow' in the mind of those who see them. Pint-sized Tom Cruise is given as an example of someone who underline how height is not everything - women make complex decisions based on a number of factors including the size of the wallet, abilities on the dance floor, evidence for caring or sharing and social skills (although apart from the wallet, I'm not sure what Tom Cruise has going for him).

You can read more about the book Quirkology online but luckily some of the section on height was published as a newspaper article entitled A Short History of Stature in the Daily Telegraph. Enjoy!

For my original article on this topic see: The link between height and success

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