Gainesville, Fla. (CBS TAMPA) — People who interact with others from a lower viewpoint, also known as short people, express more feelings of inferiority, excessive mistrust and paranoia.
A new study published in the journal Psychiatry Research shows that when a person’s virtual height is lowered in comparison to their surroundings – a simulation of making one short – people expressed negative feelings of inferiority, mistrust, and incompetence. People who experienced social situations at a lower height were more prone to feeling worse about themselves, and such inferiority led them to feel more mistrustful toward others.
The Oxford University researchers conducted the study by using virtual reality to reduce the height of people walking through a computer-simulated subway train. The volunteers had their height reduced by about 10 inches as they moved among others in the virtual world.
The shortened participants were more likely to feel that others on the virtual train were staring at them, thinking badly about them or possibly trying to cause them harm. Although the other passengers on the train were programmed to remain “neutral” in both tests, people’s feelings of inferiority and mistrust were only exacerbated when they were shortened, not when they meandered about at their normal height.
Professor Daniel Freeman, who led the Medical Research Council-funded study, told The Telegraph: “Being tall is associated with greater career and relationship success. Height is taken to convey authority, and we feel taller when we feel more powerful. It is little wonder then that men and women tend to over-report their height.”
“In this study we reduced people’s height, which led to a striking consequence: people felt inferior and this caused them to feel overly mistrustful,” said Freeman. “This all happened in a virtual reality simulation, but we know that people behave in VR as they do in real life.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the average U.S. male’s height is 69.3 inches (5 feet 7 inches tall) and average female height is 63.8 inches.
Previous research from Timothy Judge of the University of Florida found that tall people make more money than their shorter counterparts, with each in height corresponding to $789 more in annual salary. For example, a person who is 6 feet tall versus someone who is 5-foot-5 would be expected to earn $5,525 more each year than their shorter coworkers.
The Oxford virtual study on height also made the connection between height and social status, showing that low self-esteem is linked to paranoid thoughts about others.
“The results were very clear: lowering of height led to more negative evaluations of the self, compared with others and greater levels of paranoia,” researchers said in Psychiatry Research. “The important treatment implication for severe paranoia that we can take from this study is that if we help people to feel more self-confident then they will be less mistrustful.”