Short shrift: A new Oxford study confirms prejudices about the vertically challenged in a less-than-scientific way

 

Share
Related Topics

Like lots of academic research, the new Oxford University study into us short-arses (I qualify, I believe) says nothing terribly new. Supposed "Short Man Syndrome" has been around for as long as us short blokes have taken our tiny strides across God's earth.

The Oxford academics' findings are variations on an old theme. They say shorties are supposed to suffer from heightened levels of mistrust, fear and paranoia. It's also been argued they/we are more jealous about spouses. "Height-reduced" (reduced?) participants in the study were apparently more likely to think that someone in a Tube train carriage was deliberately staring or thinking badly about them.

The truth is that shorter men have had to cope not with being short, as such, but with being accused of suffering from this syndrome. It is that that makes us "chippy", if anything: an important distinction.

So, wearisomely, let us trudge through the arguments. First, that Napoleon, Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Attila the Hun, Richard Hammond and other monsters of history have been vertically challenged. Well, yes and no. People were generally shorter in the olden days, and plenty of unpleasant dictators have been big fellas; Idi Amin springs to mind; Saddam Hussein was a bit over 6ft, as was Osama bin Laden and Gaddafi; Kim Il Sung looked big by Korean norms. As it happens, Winston Churchill was the same height as Hitler. I can't see the "short man syndrome" correlation myself, and whatever moulded these men I doubt it was feelings of inadequacy on any physical count (Hitler's monorchism maybe excepted).

Speaking for myself, I have no consciousness of height. Five and half feet seems about right, placing me midway between Ahmadinejad and Bin Laden. It has never bothered me, and I have nothing against tall folk, of either gender as it happens. Why would I? It makes no logical sense. As for romance, height isn't everything, you know. A woman is more likely to go for a brilliant, witty, gifted, shortish, good-looking chap than some ugly lummock. Dudley Moore wasn't known as the "sex thimble" for nothing. I'll leave it there.

In contrast to my opinions, the Oxford research is a rigorously controlled study. Or is it? What, in fact, we discover is that the "experiment" took place in "virtual reality", not in a real-life Tube train. As someone who has to travel on one of these each day, I usually find that there are other things on my mind as I crush into the carriage. More appositely, the feelings stated by the participants were not about their own height, which is real, but how they felt when their seat was raised or lowered – an absurdly artificial method of enquiry. Hence the "lowering" of height, something not normally seen in the real world.

"For people whose lives are affected by paranoid thinking, this study provides useful insights on the role of height and how this can influence a person's sense of mistrust," according to the study. Well, the only thing I mistrust is pseudo-scientific research such as this, and the only paranoia I feel is that people believe it. It may feed a certain amount of real prejudice, such as the idea that party leaders have to be tall – as the current crop are, excepting Nigel Farage, who is no giant.

I would prefer to see a study of "Tall Man Syndrome", to discover whether those over, say, 6ft are predisposed to be arrogant, bossy and perhaps a bit too relaxed about their position in life. Or maybe, as I crane my neck to catch a glimpse of these tall poppies, I'm just being insecure.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£13000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to be part of a ...

Recruitment Genius: 1st Line Technical Support Engineer

£19000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT and Telecoms company ar...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Manager - Visitor Fundraising

£23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Visitor Fundraising Team is responsi...

Recruitment Genius: Developer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
An investor looks at an electronic board showing stock information at a brokerage house in Shanghai  

China has exposed the fatal flaws in our liberal economic order

Ann Pettifor
Jeremy Corbyn addresses over a thousand supporters at Middlesbrough Town Hall on August 18, 2015  

Thank God we have the right-wing press to tell us what a disaster Jeremy Corbyn as PM would be

Mark Steel
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future