Surely, you’ve heard that old chestnut that tall people make better leaders. That more presidents are tall. That tall people are smarter, hotter, funnier, more successful, better athletes, better models, and make more money — and, even, that women like tall men better. Some of this may be true — some of it may be too high up in the air for us to know any different. But, the latest scientific study adds a new twist to this learning. That is, powerful people think they’re tall, taller than they actually are. Which changes EVERYTHING. Tall or not, powerful people are clearly off their rockers.
A study conducted at Washington University in St. Louis is, apparently, the first to go beyond that idea that physically imposing people are more likely to grasp the reins of power — and, in fact, to show that powerful people simply feel taller than they actually are. The experiments went like this: First, participants were asked to remember a situation in which they had power over someone else, or someone else had power over them.
They were then asked to estimate their size in relation to a pole that had been set precisely 20 inches taller than their actual heights.
Those who had been conditioned to feel “empowered” thought the pole was nearer in height to them than those who’d been made to feel subordinate.
There was also a role-playing experiment featuring a “manager” and an “ordinary worker,” in which they had to provide their heights in a questionnaire. The manager got to inflate his. And, finally, participants in the series of experiments chose avatars for themselves in a second-life game, with “the more empowered volunteers” naturally and consistently choosing taller avatars.
What does this study do, aside from undermining everything we ever thought we knew about Napoleon? Researchers think employers should consider “placing short high-ranking workers in higher offices to raise their psychological sense of power.”
Just like lifts in one’s shoes, but office-wise!
Now, we just need scientists to address the question of what makes powerful people put their hands in their own shirts while giving off a generally constipated vibe. Science, teach us.
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