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?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultants

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £Competitive: SThree: SThree Group and have be...

Recruitment Genius: Chief Engineer

£50000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chief Engineer is required to...

Recruitment Genius: Web Marketing Specialist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading Renewable Energy compa...

Ashdown Group: Data Warehouse & Business Intelligence Co-ordinator

£35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Required skills include SQL querying, SSRS, u...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: stupid questions in opinion polls, in the House of Commons and in job interviews

John Rentoul
 

i Editor's Letter: The demise of a Sixties monster

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?