Laura’s Psychology Blog

One Professor’s Observations of the World of Psychology….   

March 16, 2008

It’s nice to be tall….

Filed under: General Psychology,Psychology — Laura Freberg @ 6:08 pm

Although I spent many of my early teen years thinking that I’d rather be about 5’4″ instead of 5’9″, I have definitely come to appreciate being taller. When I shop, I have to wonder what shorter women do, as many jeans and slacks are almost too long for me.

The literature provides an interesting insight into the advantages of being tall. Since 1896, all US presidents have been above average in height, and typically, the taller candidate wins. Tall doesn’t just work for men. The often-reported correlation between height and salary seems to work the same way for both men and women [1]. In my business, one’s salary is primarily a matter of seniority. Stick around long enough, and most people make about the same money. If you’re curious about professors’ salaries, you can (at least for now–there is talk of shutting this down) search for me or any other California state employee here.

Taller people are reported to be more persuasive, more likely to be leaders, and more attractive as mates. Now add another wrinkle to the height thing–according to Buunk and his colleagues, short men are more likely to be jealous [2].

Buunk et al.’s data on women seem somewhat confusing. Average-height women are less likely to be jealous than tall or short women, but can be more jealous than these other height groups when faced with physically powerful or socially well-connected rivals. Some of these conclusions might need a bit more work. I was particularly bemused with the authors’ contention that “taller women are more dominant and have greater fighting abilities than short women.” I’m not too sure about those “greater fighting abilities.” I did manage to throw the shot put 25 feet compared to Karen’s 57’7″, but I don’t think the difference can be explained in terms of her three inch advantage over me in height….

If you have no idea how tall or short you are, here are some helpful tables. I find myself in the 95+ percentile, not too surprisingly. So is Mr F, Karen, and Karla. Kristin, at 5’7″, takes a lot of heat from her dad for being “short,” but she’s in about the 80th percentile. And as a close quarters combat instructor, it’s safe to say that she does have “greater fighting abilities.” These charts have average weights, too, if you’re feeling brave.

At any rate, I think it’s safe to say that jealousy is a very uncomfortable emotion, and it’s easier to prevent it by behaving loyally to your partner than to worry about his or her height….

1.  Judge, T.A., & Cable, D.M. (2004). The effect of physical height on workplace success and income: Preliminary test of a theoretical model. Journal of Applied Psychology, 89, 428-441.

2. Buunk, A.P., Park, J.H., Zurriaga, R., Klavina, L., & Massar, K. (2008). Height predicts jealousy differently for men and women. Evolution and Human Behavior, 29, 133-139.

3 Responses to “It’s nice to be tall….”

  1. rwest Says:

    Very interesting article and very interesting link. It’s great knowing what all of your favorite teacher’s baseline pay is. It seems crazy to think that one’s height is correlated with their rate of pay or even level of jealousy. I’m very intrigued though and I plan on looking more into this fascinating research.

  2. Laura Freberg Says:

    Hey, sounds like a cool senior project….did you check to see if Arnold is in the database?

  3. l.ogden Says:

    I’m 5’10” and the older I get, the more I appreciate/don’t mind it. Maybe this is due to the fact that enough boys have caught up, or maybe it’s because all of my closest girl friends in high school were about 5’2″ (including my mom) and I have met more girls of different heights. I don’t think I was more jealous, just was uncomfortable with my height. Luckily for me it seems I have a slight advantage in my future when it comes to jobs! I won’t count on it though, or the better fighting ability :)


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