Short men are more aggressive, but not the way you expect


Everything indicates that “The Napoleonic Complex” or the trend that men have shorter stature to be more aggressive has its basis in reality. A new study published in the journal of the Association for Psychological Science, has given some weight to the premise and has discovered that smaller men sometimes responded more aggressively when playing a board game.

While working at the University of Vrije in the Netherlands, Jill Knapen and her team wanted to prove that this supposed syndrome (which occurs only in men and not in women) was not just a cognitive bias, but that it was true. To achieve this, they had 42 men participate in a simple task of money distribution called the Game of the Dictator, often used in psychological research.

The participants were presented to their opponent and had approximately ten seconds to measure each other. Then they went into separate cubicles, where they were given a small sum of money: eighteen chips that represented dimes.

Each person had to decide how much he should keep and how much he should leave to his partner, in a unique task. The team discovered that the lower men were left with a larger booty, which could be interpreted as a relatively aggressive act.

For example, the lowest men in the study (with average heights of 170 cm) saved an average of 14 chips, while the tallest man (with 2 meters) stayed with 9. “It’s probably smart for low men to be thus, because they have fewer opportunities to obtain resources “, elaborates Knapp in his study.

But in a second two-stage task, the lower men were not significantly more greedy than their higher counterparts. In this game, the second person has the opportunity to punish small amounts with rejection, in which case, neither person gets money.

Nor were they more aggressive in a third game, in which a person can choose how much hot sauce he pours over his opponent’s drink. Knapen says this suggests that young men are only more aggressive if there are no repercussions. “They are flexible in their behavior,” he explains.

However, Mike Eslea of the University of Central Lancashire, UK, says the findings do not support the idea of short man syndrome. “They’re supposed to publicly publicize their aggressiveness to compensate for their lack of stature – for me, this does not exactly suggest the Napoleon Complex, it suggests something else,” he said.

Height is one of the most important stereotypes when evaluating people. Another, unfortunately, is the color of the skin. A  study published by Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that Americans have a tendency to perceive men as dark-skinned African – Americans- the largest and most threatening.

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