It sounds absurd, but studies continue to tell us that people have a more positive reaction to people who are tall. There are many empty tall people around town but that does not change the penchant of associating height with the quality of mind and strength.
Could this have a Biblical origin? Indeed the Bible describes King Saul as “taller than any of the people.” As a result, he just looked like a leader to Samuel and others.
Tall King Saul
Even though God later rejected Saul as king, Prophet Samuel repeated the wrong perception. When God led Samuel to select a new king, the prophet continued to focus on appearances. But God told him, “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart”
Centuries later, this association has not changed. A survey of Fortune 500 CEO height revealed that they were on average 6 ft 0 in (1.83 m) tall, which is approximately 2.5 inches (6.4 cm) taller than the average American man.
About 30 per cent were 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m) tall or more; in comparison only 3.9 per cent of the overall United States population is of this height. Similar surveys have uncovered that less than 3 per cent of CEOs were below 5 ft 7 in (1.70 m) in height. Ninety percent of CEOs are of above average height.
Strange! The insinuation of this study and others to be cited later is strange, and ordinarily sounds stupid. Many criminals are tall and huge people, cashing in on their physical advantage.
Besides, shorter men have been found to have the following advantages: Shorter people of the same proportion as taller people have many advantages based on the laws of physics, and these advantages are supported by many researchers.
World footballer of the year, Lionel Messi, is short, faster on the ball, more stable and hardly falls from clumsy tackles.
Studies have observed that shorter people have faster reaction times, greater ability to accelerate body movements, stronger muscles in proportion to body weight, greater endurance, and the ability to rotate the body faster. They are also less likely to break bones in falling.
As a consequence of these physical attributes, shorter people can excel as gymnasts, divers, skiers, martial artists, rock climbers, figure skaters, rodeo riders, soccer players and long distance runners. Within their weight classes they are excellent wrestlers, boxers, and weight lifters.
Despite all that, study upon study, observe the height advantage in the choice of candidates for top positions. Malcolm Gladwell, calls it some kind of “unconscious prejudice.” That is prejudice that we have that we aren’t aware of, that affects the kinds of impressions and conclusions that we reach automatically, without thinking.
May be! We tend to rate taller things better. Taller people on the whole are seen as more attractive and more persuasive; tall buildings and high mountains are somehow better than the lower ones nearby. Even language reinforces this prejudice. We talk about the upper class, people in high office, moving up the career ladder, and so on.
An inch of height is worth $789
Gladwell, bestselling author and speaker, says “most of us, in ways that we are not entirely aware of, automatically associate leadership ability with imposing physical stature.
We have a sense, in our minds, of what a leader is supposed to look like, and that stereotype is so powerful that when someone fits it, we simply become blind to other considerations.
And this isn’t confined to the corporate suite. Not long ago, researchers went back and analyzed the data from four large research studies that had followed thousands of people from birth to adulthood, and calculated that when corrected for variables like age and gender and weight, an inch of height is worth $789 a year in salary.
That means that a person who is six feet tall, but who is otherwise identical to someone who is five foot five, will make on average $5,525 more per year.
As Timothy Judge, one of the authors of the study, points out: “If you take this over the course of a 30-year career and compound it, we’re talking about a tall person enjoying literally hundreds of thousands of dollars of earnings advantage.”
Correlation between height and IQ
The issue is however taking a more serious dimension with recent studies showing some association between tall people and smart people. A new study from the University of Edinburgh finds the short people may not measure up to their taller peers intellectually.
Previous studies had identified a genetic correlation between height and IQ using twins and family members, but this study was the first to test the connection using DNA markers in unrelated people, study author Riccardo Marioni said.
Researchers analyzed genetic data on 6,815 men and women collected by the Scottish Family Health Study between 2006 and 2011.
“We tested whether DNA-based genetic similarities among people related to their similarities in height and intelligence,” Marioni said.
“What we found was a small association between height and intelligence such that people who are taller tend to be smarter.”
While the genetic correlation between being tall and being smart was “moderate,” study authors wrote, people who have both traits share common genetic variants.
Appearances are often deceptive
In conclusion, despite the flurry of suggestions linking height with superiority, I am yet to see a compelling evidence to shred the suggestion that the taller the better he is. The saying that appearances could be deceptive is a timeless caution that is yet to be trashed by new studies.
The brain of physicist Albert Einstein was removed within seven and a half hours of his death. It attracted attention because of Einstein’s reputation as one of the foremost geniuses of the 20th century. But at 5 feet, 7 inches, he was not strikingly tall. Einstein, a German-born theoretical physicist, developed the general theory of relativity, one of the two pillars of modern physics. Einstein’s work is also known for its influence on the philosophy of science.
We all seem to get fooled to focus on appearances, on how things look on the surface, and influenced by what seems to be true. How wrong we often get.