ArticlePDF Available

Human Height Is Positively Related to Interpersonal Dominance in Dyadic Interactions


Abstract and Figures

Across cultures, taller stature is linked to increased social status, but the potential reasons why this should be are unclear. One potential explanation is that taller individuals are more likely to win a dyadic confrontation with a competitor (i.e., they are more dominant), which leads to higher social rank. Although some previous studies have shown that perceptions of status or dominance are related to height, and are therefore consistent with such an explanation, there is surprisingly little research testing whether height actually has any influence on the behavioural outcomes in real-life social interactions. Here, we present three naturalistic observational studies demonstrating that height predicts interpersonal dominance during brief dyadic interactions. Study 1 investigated the likelihood of giving way in a narrow passage (N = 92); Study 2 investigated giving way in a busy shopping street, plus the likelihood of colliding with another individual (N = 1,108); and Study 3 investigated the likelihood of maintaining a linear path while walking, and potentially entering another individual's personal space (N = 1,056). We conclude that human height is positively related to interpersonal dominance, and may well contribute to the widely observed positive association between height and social status.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Human Height Is Positively Related to
Interpersonal Dominance in Dyadic
Gert Stulp
*, Abraham P. Buunk
, Simon Verhulst
, Thomas V. Pollet
1Department of Psychology, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands, 2Groningen Institute
for Evolutionary Life Sciences, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands, 3Department of
Population Health, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, United Kingdom, 4Faculty of
Social and Behavioral Sciences, University of Curaçao, Willemstad, Curaçao, 5Department of Social and
Organizational Psychology, VU University Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Across cultures, taller stature is linked to increased social status, but the potential reasons
why this should be are unclear. One potential explanation is that taller individuals are more
likely to win a dyadic confrontation with a competitor (i.e., they are more dominant), which
leads to higher social rank. Although some previous studies have shown that perceptions of
status or dominance are related to height, and are therefore consistent with such an expla-
nation, there is surprisingly little research testing whether height actually has any influence
on the behavioural outcomes in real-life social interactions. Here, we present three natural-
istic observational studies demonstrating that height predicts interpersonal dominance dur-
ing brief dyadic interactions. Study 1 investigated the likelihood of giving way in a narrow
passage (N=92); Study 2 investigated giving way in a busy shopping street, plus the likeli-
hood of colliding with another individual (N= 1,108); and Study 3 investigated the likelihood
of maintaining a linear path while walking, and potentially entering another individuals per-
sonal space (N= 1,056). We conclude that human height is positively related to interperson-
al dominance, and may well contribute to the widely observed positive association between
height and social status.
Both historically and cross-culturally, the term big manhas been used to denote an individu-
al of both high social status and physical stature. According to Ellis [1, p.279], the phrase is a
conflation of physical size and social rank and ... big menare consistently big men,tall in stat-
ure(see also [2]). For most of human evolution, it seems likely that big menexperienced in-
creased social status (i.e. increased access to resources) due to their physical superiority in
competition with others. Although, historically, size may have been a more important determi-
nant of male status (reflected in the average difference in height between the sexes, and the fact
PLOS ONE | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0117860 February 26, 2015 1/18
Citation: Stulp G, Buunk AP, Verhulst S, Pollet TV
(2015) Human Height Is Positively Related to
Interpersonal Dominance in Dyadic Interactions.
PLoS ONE 10(2): e0117860. doi:10.1371/journal.
Academic Editor: Andrea S. Wiley, Indiana
Received: October 1, 2014
Accepted: January 3, 2015
Published: February 26, 2015
Copyright: © 2015 Stulp et al. This is an open
access article distributed under the terms of the
Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits
unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any
medium, provided the original author and source are
Data Availability Statement: All relevant data are
within the paper and its Supporting Information files.
Funding: This research was supported by a grant to
APB from the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts
and Sciences (, and an NWO (de
Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk
Onderzoek; Veni grant to TVP
(451.10.032). The funders had no role in study
design, data collection and analysis, decision to
publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
Competing Interests: The authors have declared
that no competing interests exist.
that historical and ethnographic sources refer exclusively to big men), the relation between
height, social status and power is obviously applicable to women as well, especially in societies
with greater gender equality. Indeed, among contemporary human populations, height is posi-
tively related to proxies of social status, such as leadership, professional achievement, educa-
tion, and income [39] in both men and women.
Despite the overwhelming evidence that human stature is positively related to social status
in both men and women in Western societies, the proximate mechanisms underpinning this
phenomenon remain obscure. Several hypotheses to explain this relationship have been pro-
posed, including the increased cognitive ability associated with greater height (explained by
factors such as genes or nutrition: [6]), the increased health problems associated with shorter
stature [10], and the observation that taller individuals appear to experience better childhood
environments (i.e. parental resources; [11]). All these hypotheses, however, interpret the corre-
lation between height and social status to be indirect; that is, this relationship is mediated by
factors like improved nutrition and health, that are both a cause and consequence of higher so-
cial status in and of themselves. Interestingly, Persico and colleagues [11] show that the higher
social status of taller individuals persists even after controlling for the above factors, suggesting
that height could have a direct influence on the ability to achieve high social status in contem-
porary, industrialized society (see also [12]). Moreover, findings suggesting that taller individu-
als achieve greater levels of upward social mobility [1315], even when familial circumstances
are very similar (e.g., sibling pairs: [16,17]), gives further credence to the idea that the positive
association between height and status may be independent of childhood circumstances.
Here, we consider the possibility that height directly influences the likelihood of attaining
higher social status. More specifically, we hypothesize that taller people achieve higher social
status as a result of their increased interpersonal dominance during confrontations with com-
petitors. Dominance in the animal kingdom is defined as 'an attribute of the pattern of repeat-
ed, agonistic interactions between two individuals, characterized by a consistent outcome in
favour of the same dyad member and a default yielding response of its opponent rather than es-
calation[18, p. 283]. Although dominance as such is a relative measure (based on repeated in-
teractions), and not an absolute property of an individual, in this study we will refer to
interpersonal dominance as the likelihood of an individual winning a dyadic confrontation.
We hypothesize that the probability of winning a confrontation increases with height of the in-
dividual in relation to their opponent. The form and function of such confrontations can be as
diverse as the society in which they occur, and although the advantage of winning one confron-
tation may be small, the cumulative effect of many such advantages may be instrumental to
achieving higher social status.
The hypothesis that body size is related to dominance echoes findings in the animal king-
dom. Darwin was among the first to suggest that males were larger than females in most mam-
mals because such large size was advantageous in contests over mates [19, p. 260], and later
studies have confirmed that size is indeed important in intra-sexual competition. Among
mammals, larger males are usually more likely to win fights from smaller males [20], which
leads to higher social rank and increased social dominance, and, consequently, increased access
to females [21,22]. Recently, Puts [23] argued that, although inter-sexual selection (i.e. mate
choice) has been considered the main driver of sexual selection in humans, differences in body
size, strength, and aggressiveness between the sexes are probably better explained in terms of
intra-sexual competition. Thus, sexual dimorphism in stature may well be a consequence of
past intra-sexual competition between males.
Among humans, there is also some evidence to suggest that height is related to physical
dominance [21] (although observed relationships are often weak): taller compared to shorter
men are physically stronger and perceived to be stronger [24]; physically more aggressive [25];
Height and Dominance
PLOS ONE | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0117860 February 26, 2015 2/18
show better fighting ability [2426]; and feel less threatened by physically dominant men [27].
However, physical strength and fighting ability may seem unlikely determinants of social status
in modern Western societies, given that individuals are prohibited by law from using force
against another individual [23]. Nevertheless, we suggest that height is associated with domi-
nance in contemporary populations, resulting in taller individuals being more likely to win
(non-physical) confrontations against shorter individuals, albeit in more subtle ways.
How, then, could human height directly influence the probability of winning non-physical
confrontations? First, even though the use of force is prohibited by law, the increased physical
strength [24] and fighting ability [26] of taller individuals may be perceived as more threaten-
ing during a contest [24], even when that contest is non-physical. Taller people are also per-
ceived as more competent, authoritative, intelligent, dominant, and having better leadership
qualities [9,2834]. Such height-dependent perceptions may then contribute to the increased
dominance of taller individuals if shorter individuals act on their perceptions, and treat those
who are taller as more competent, authoritative, and dominant than they are, and so yield to
them in competitive situations.
Height may also affect how people perceive themselves, and so influence behaviour (which
as noted, in part reflects how other people treat them). For instance, taller individuals, particu-
larly taller men, have higher levels of self-esteem than shorter individuals [9] and are more like-
ly to see themselves as leader [35], which may result in taller individuals displaying more self-
confidence in social interactions. Increased self-esteem may itself be a consequence of
experiencing more favourable contest outcomes earlier in life. Children as young as ten months
old recognize that size plays a role in dominance contests [36], and there is some evidence to
suggest that taller individuals win more contests/confrontations during childhood and young
adulthood than shorter individuals: taller children win more aggressive bouts on the play-
ground [37] and are less likely to be a victim of bullying [38]. It has also been shown that taller
teenagers participate more in social activities, which in turn has been shown to have long-term
effects on social status in later life [11]. Thus, the cumulative effects of the positive contest out-
comes experienced by taller individuals throughout development are likely to contribute to in-
creased self-esteem and hence increased dominance in adulthood.
Despite the clear positive association between height and social status, and the well-estab-
lished perceptual links between height, dominance, and status, there are only a handful of stud-
ies that consider how height influences behavioural outcomes in social encounters. For
instance, Huang and colleagues [39] showed that, during a negotiation task, individuals per-
ceived to be taller were also more influential: when competitors were perceived to be tall (by
being filmed from below), they had more influence during the task, than when competitors
were perceived to be short (by being filmed from above). Similarly, individuals assigned taller
avatars in a virtual reality setting behaved more selfishly in economic games than those as-
signed shorter avatars [40,41]. Finally, the finding that taller referees displayed greater authori-
ty during football matches, was interpreted as reflecting the increased dominance or status of
these taller individuals [42].
In this paper, we extend these findings and examine whether stature is positively related to
interpersonal dominance in subtle non-physical contests, via a series of observational studies.
In Study 1, we examined whether height influenced the probability of yielding to another indi-
vidual when passing through a narrow passageway. Imagine a situation where two individuals
from opposite directions simultaneously attempt to pass through a narrow passageway that
only accommodates the passing of a single individual at a given time. Which individual is more
likely to take precedence and which individual is more likely to give way? We hypothesized
that, in a real-life situation, this game of chicken(e.g., [43]) would result in taller individuals
Height and Dominance
PLOS ONE | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0117860 February 26, 2015 3/18
being more likely to take precedence, with shorter individuals being more likely to give way, so
allowing taller individuals to pass first.
In Study 2, we investigated whether people gave way to confederates of varying height, who
walked against the stream of pedestrian traffic in a busy shopping street. On busy shopping
streets, people walk in a variety of directions at a variety of speeds heading toward a variety of
destinations. Yet, for the most part, people obey an implicit rule that they should walk on the
correctside of the street (either right or left, depending on the country). As a result, pedestri-
an traffic self-organises, and the overwhelming majority of people on the same side of the street
will walk in the same direction. What happens when an individual violates this norm and
walks against the flow of pedestrian traffic? More pertinently to our aims here, does the height
of the person violating this norm influence how people react? We therefore investigated wheth-
er pedestrians would be more likely to give way to, and less likely to bump into, a taller individ-
ual who walked against the flow of pedestrian traffic than they would to a shorter individual.
In Study 3, we examined whether the height of a pedestrian influenced his or her behaviour
towards a confederate who was partially blocking the pedestrians pathway. In general, people
try to avoid invading someone elses personal space, and ensure they pass by others at a socially
acceptable distance. What happens, however, when an unknown individual partly blocks your
pathway? Do people choose to remain on their original path, thereby passing by such individu-
als in close proximity, or do they divert from their chosen path, thereby giving a wider berth to
the blocking individual? In this study, we tested whether the height of the passing pedestrian,
would significantly influence the path chosen. We hypothesized that taller pedestrians would
be less likely to yield and divert from their path. Thus, in all three studies, we hypothesized that
height would be positively related to dominance, such that taller individuals would be less likely
to yield than those who were shorter.
All the research reported in this document was approved by the psychology ethics committee
of the University of Groningen, which decided that no informed consent was needed. All stud-
ies had an observational nature, with observations conducted in public areas where any person
could reasonably expect to be observed, and data gathered were evidently anonymous. All stud-
ies were performed in a mid-size city in the north of the Netherlands. The average height for
men and women aged in their early 20s in this region is approximately 185.6 and 172.4 cm
[44]. Although we do not have the weights of the confederates, all confederates were in the
normalBMI range. All observers were aware of the aims for each study. All analyses were per-
formed using R [45], version 3.1.1.
Study 1Taking precedence and giving way on a narrow sidewalk
Procedure. We observed pedestrians entering and leaving a supermarket. To do so, pedes-
trians had to walk through a narrow passage on a sidewalk (Fig. 1A). The passage was too nar-
row for two individuals to pass through simultaneously. Thus, when two individuals
approaching from opposite directions attempted to pass, one individual was required to give
way (Fig. 1A). In the first part of our experiment, we made use of narrowness of passageway re-
sulting from temporary scaffolding (because of construction work). After the scaffolding was
removed, we used bicycles to create a similarly narrow passage. All observations were per-
formed by pairs of observers (comprised of a total of six different observers). The observers
stood on the opposite side of the street, outside of the direct line of sight of the pedestrians. For
each pair, the observers agreed on both the height and age of each individual, and on which in-
dividual took precedence and which individual gave way. Individual height was estimated
Height and Dominance
PLOS ONE | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0117860 February 26, 2015 4/18
using chalk lines marked on the wall next to the passageway. The lines were marked in ten cm
increments from 160 to 200 cm. A pilot experiment demonstrated that this method of estimat-
ing height was reliable, as high inter-rater reliability correlations across all raters were found
(all Pearson r>.95; p<.0001). Groups and individuals pushing either bicycles or buggies
were not included in the observations.
Analyses. In total, we observed 92 pairs of individuals trying to pass through the passage-
way at exactly the same time on six different observation days (during 12.0013.30 and 17.00
19.00, mid-April 2012). We only included same-sex pairs (N= 50 pairs). Heights were estimat-
ed to be equal in 4 of these 50 pairs, and these were excluded from the analyses, leaving 46
pairs (28 male pairs and 18 female pairs). The perceived ages of these individuals were between
16 and 75. A paired samples t-test was used to test whether those who took precedence were
taller than those who yielded and gave way. To test for differences in the effect of height de-
pending on the sex of the pair, we used a General Linear Model, with the difference in height
between the individuals as a dependent variable and sex as a fixed factor. This analysis is equiv-
alent to a paired samples t-test when no fixed factors are included in the GLM and only an in-
tercept is fitted. Because age is related to height and differences in age between the individuals
in the pair may influence who yields, we also controlled for the difference in perceived age in
the GLM. Additionally, we reran the analyses only including couples in which the perceived
age differences did not exceed 15 years. Including the pair of observing experimenters as a ran-
dom effect did not influence the results, nor did the method by which the passageway was nar-
rowed (scaffolding versus bicycles; results not reported).
Fig 1. The set-up from (A) Study 1, (B) Study 2, and (C) Study 3.
Height and Dominance
PLOS ONE | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0117860 February 26, 2015 5/18
Study 2Giving way and collisions in a busy shopping street
Procedure. Confederates of varying height walked up and down a crowded shopping
street. They were instructed to walk in a straight line, against the flow of pedestrian traffic (i.e.
walking on the left side of the street) and to not look oncoming pedestrians in the eye, but to
gaze either at shop windows or into the middle distance (looking around, as it were). One ob-
server (of which there were six in total; the same individuals also acted as confederates) ob-
served the sex of each pedestrian encountered, whether the pedestrian gave way to the
confederate (i.e. the pedestrian would move to one side and onto a different heading, in order
to avoid a collision with the pedestrian), and whether the pedestrians collided with the confed-
erate (Fig. 1B). We defined a collision as any physical contact between a pedestrian and the
confederate. When it was evident that the pedestrian was not going to step aside for the confed-
erate and a collision was imminent, the confederate would then step aside and avoid contact as
best as possible. When a collision occurred, the confederate would apologize to the pedestrian.
In 70% of the cases in which the pedestrian did not give way, there was some form of physical
contact with the confederate (such as the arms bumping slightly into each other). Even in cases
were the pedestrian gave way to the confederate (by diverting from his or her path), physical
contact still occurred (in 25% of the interactions). The behaviour of the confederates with re-
spect to collisions was not easily standardized, and individual differences in behavioural dispo-
sitions may have affected the rate of collisions. Heights and ages of the pedestrians were not
recorded, as this was too difficult to assess accurately by the experimenter, who also had to ma-
neuver through the busy shopping street, and avoid colliding with pedestrians. All confederates
were dressed in a similar fashion (jeans and dark jacket). Eight female confederates (with
heights of: 160, 161, 171, 172, 175, 177, 183 and 183 cm) and seven male confederates (with
heights of: 170, 177, 180, 185, 200, and 200 cm) participated in the study. Pedestrian couples
were not included. Observations were made on eleven different days (at peak hours for pedes-
trian traffic; 1417 and 1921 on Thursday evenings).
Analyses. Logistic mixed models were used to analyse the data, using the lme4 package
[46]. The binomial dependent variables were (a) whether the pedestrian gave way to the con-
federate (i.e. stepped aside) and (b) whether a collision occurred. As independent factors, we
included confederate height and sex, and the sex of the pedestrian. Confederate identity was in-
cluded as a random factor because observations within a confederate cannot be assumed to be
independent. Including the identity of the observer as a random factor did not change our re-
sults (results not reported). We determined the (pseudo-) R
for the full model (i.e. conditional
; proportion of variation explained by both fixed and random effects) based on the methods
by Nakagawa & Schielzeth [47], using the MuMIn package [48]. Furthermore, we determined
the R
of the effect of height for each sex (i.e. the marginal R
; proportion of variation explained
by fixed effects), to compare their magnitude.
Study 3Maintaining ones pathway in a narrow passage
Procedure. The study was set in a passageway for pedestrians between a market and the
main shopping street of the city. The passageway was narrow (approximately 2 m wide) and
contained a small pole in the middle of the passage near the shopping street (Fig. 1C). The pole
acts as a guideto ensure people walk through the passage on the rightside. Thus, people
coming from the market and entering the shopping street mostly walk on one side of the pas-
sage (and pole), whereas people going to the market from the shopping street usually walk on
the other side of the passage (and pole; Fig. 1C). Taking advantage of this set-up, we positioned
a confederate in a way that partially blocked the passage for those pedestrians walking from the
market towards the shopping street. More specifically, the confederate was asked to lean
Height and Dominance
PLOS ONE | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0117860 February 26, 2015 6/18
against the wall in the vicinity of the pole, thus leaving only around one meter of space between
the confederate and the pole through which pedestrians could pass. We examined whether pe-
destrians would maintain their original path, and so pass the confederate at sufficiently close
proximity to invade their personal space (Fig. 1C), or whether they would yield to the confeder-
ate by deviating from their original path (and so passing the confederate on the wrongside of
the pole). This set-up thus provided a clear and unambiguous measure of path deviation by al-
lowing us to record simply on which side of the pole a given pedestrian chose to walk in order
to pass through the passage. Observations were conducted on ten different days (between April
and June 5
2012; between 11.0017.00 h).
In each observation session, the blocking confederate was instructed to lean against the wall,
with his or her right arm resting against the wall, so that they were facing towards the shopping
street and away from the pedestrian. They were instructed to play with a mobile phone to
make their behavior appear more natural. Four female confederates (with heights of 171, 175,
176, and 183 cm) and three male confederates (with heights of 177, 185, and 200 cm) partici-
pated in the study. As the main focus of the study was the height of the pedestrians, rather than
that of the confederates (as was the case in Study 2), we used fewer confederates, and their indi-
vidual heights did not cover the entire height range. It is possible, however, that confederate
height may influence the behavior of the pedestrians, and therefore we included it in
our analyses.
Two observers simultaneously recorded the behavior of the pedestrians coming from the
market and walking through the passage, approaching the confederate from behind. One re-
searcher recorded the height, sex and perceived age of each pedestrian, whereas the other re-
searcher recorded whether or not pedestrians maintained their path (i.e. they recorded which
side of the pole the pedestrian chose to pass the blocking confederate). The observers were po-
sitioned behind a corner, out of the line of sight of the pedestrians. To our knowledge, pedestri-
ans were completely unaware of the presence of the observers while walking through the
passageway. Individuals walking in groups or with a bicycle or a buggy were not recorded. We
also did not record the behaviour of pedestrians when other pedestrians were walking through
the passageway, as this resulted in further blocking of the pathway in addition to our confeder-
ates, and the basis of pedestrian movement decisions with respect to the confederate became
ambiguous. In total, 1,056 pedestrians were observed passing by our confederates.
Due to local conditions of this experimental-set up, we could not make use of chalk mark-
ings on the wall to estimate pedestrian height. Instead, observers estimated height without any
reference points. Although this method is less accurate than the one in our first study, we do
not consider this to be a major problem, for two reasons. First, all our research assistants were
trained during our first study to make accurate height estimations. Second, two researchers
rated a subset of pedestrians on height, and inter-rater correlation was high (Pearson r= .83,
p<.0001, N= 50). The perceived ages of the pedestrians were between 11 and 80.
Analyses. We used logistic mixed models to analyse the data, with the chosen path of the
pedestrian (i.e. whether the pedestrian was observed to deviate from his or her path) as the de-
pendent variable. We included height and sex of the pedestrian, and the sex of the confederate,
as fixed effects, and we included confederate identity as a random effect because observations
within a confederate may not be independent. Including observer identity as a random effect
did not change our results (results not reported). We standardized the estimated height of pe-
destrians within each sex in order to better compare the effect of height between the sexes: a
shift of one standard deviation therefore means the same for both men and women in this
study. For more details pertaining to the analyses, see the Analysessection of Study 2.
Height and Dominance
PLOS ONE | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0117860 February 26, 2015 7/18
Study 1Taking precedence and giving way on a narrow sidewalk
Men who took precedence were estimated to be 181.32 (SD = 10.77) cm in height, on average,
whereas men who gave way were estimated to be 177.21 (SD = 5.55) cm. Similarly, women who
took precedence were estimated to 171.11 (SD = 7.59) cm tall on average, whereas women who
gave way were estimated to be 167.06 (SD = 6.23) cm. Combining male and female pairs re-
vealed that individuals who took precedence were significantly taller (4.09 (SD = 10.96) cm)
than those who gave way (paired samples t-test: t(45) = 2.53; p= .015; d= 0.37; Fig. 2). Similar-
ly, taller individuals (67%) were significantly more likely than shorter individuals (33%) to take
precedence (Binomial test: N= 46; p= .026).
A GLM with the difference in height as a dependent variable, revealed that there was neither
a significant effect of sex (F(1, 44) <.001; p= .99; partial η
<.01), nor could this effect be at-
tributed to the difference in perceived age (F(1, 44) = .65; p= .42; partial η
= .01). In other
words, the strength of the effect of height was similar for men and women and was not driven
by the effect of age. Restricting the analyses to pairs where the perceived age difference was esti-
mated to be less than 15 years resulted in a stronger effect of height (mean difference = 5.66 cm
(SD = 10.74); t(31) = 2.98; p= .006; d= 0.53). Again, there was no significant sex difference
with respect to height (F(1, 30) <1.900; p= .18; partial η
= .060), although the effect of height
was, on average, 5.25 (SE = 3.809) cm stronger for men. Similarly, with this age range restric-
tion, taller individuals were even more likely (75%) than shorter individuals (25%) to take pre-
cedence (Binomial test; N= 32; p= .007).
Fig 2. Results of Study 1. Priority of access in relation to difference in height (cm) (individual who took
precedenceindividual who gave way) for female and male pairs. The diameter of the open circles indicates
sample size. The black dots and bar represent the mean and 95% confidence interval.
Height and Dominance
PLOS ONE | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0117860 February 26, 2015 8/18
Study 2Giving way and collisions in a busy shopping street
In total, we observed 1,018 pedestrians in the shopping street. Controlling for height, we found
that pedestrians were more likely to give way to female than to male confederates (Table 1).
For a woman of 180 cm, 76% of individuals were predicted to step aside, whereas for a man of
the same height, the value was 65%. Height was positively related to the likelihood of giving
way by the pedestrian in both sexes (Fig. 3A, 3B). For our shortest female (160 cm) and male
(170 cm) confederates, our model predicted that 55% and 54% of pedestrians would step aside,
respectively. In contrast, for our tallest female (183 cm) and male (200 cm) confederates, this
value was increased to 79% and 84% respectively. No significant interaction was found between
confederate height and sex (p= .87). Examining the amount of variation explained only by
height, we found that 7.0% of the variation in giving way in men was explained by height,
whereas for women this value was 4.8%. The sex of the pedestrian had no effect on the chance
of giving way (p= .97), nor did it interact with either confederate height (p= .18) or the sex of
the confederate (p= .38). In conclusion, pedestrians were more likely to yield and give way to
taller compared to shorter individuals, and this was equally true for men and women, although
the effect was slightly stronger for men.
Confederate height was negatively related to the likelihood of a collision (Table 1;Fig. 3C,
3D). That is, pedestrians were more likely to collide with shorter confederates than with taller
confederates. The lack of a significant interaction between confederate sex and height of the
confederate (p= .81), again suggests that the effect of height was similar for men and women.
Examining height only, we again found that it was more predictive in men: in men it explained
3.3% of the variation in collision probability, whereas female confederate height explained
1.5% of the variation. We also found a marginally significant interaction between the sex of the
confederate and the sex of the pedestrian, such that male pedestrians were less likely to collide
with female confederates (Table 1).
For our shortest female confederate (160 cm), our model predicted that 48% of women and
37% men would collide with the confederate, respectively while for our tallest female confeder-
ate (183 cm) our model predicted that only 31% of women and 22% of men would collide.
Table 1. Results from Study 2.
Likelihood that confederate was given way pvalue Likelihood of collision with confederate pvalue
Parameter estimate (±SE) Parameter estimate (±SE)
Intercept -7.72 ±2.05 .0002 4.91 ±2.28 .031
Sex confederate
-0.54 ±0.26 .041 0.56 ±0.31 .075
Sex pedestrian
-0.46 ±0.20 .022
Sex conf. x Sex ped.
0.50 ±0.28 .070
Height 0.049 ±0.012 <. 0001 -0.031 ±0.013 .018
Random intercept
0.093 ±0.31 0.14 ±0.38
Marginal R
.059 .038
Conditional R
.085 .078
Logistic mixed model parameter estimates (±SE) for the effect of the height, sex of the confederate, sex of the pedestrian, and their interactions on the
likelihood that the pedestrian would (i) give way to the confederate or (ii) collide with the confederate (N= 1,108). Non-independence due to confederate
ID was modelled as a random intercept.
Reference category is female
Non-signicant (both p>.38) and therefore not included in the nal model
Intercept at the level of confederate; variance estimate ±SD
; see text for explanation.
Height and Dominance
PLOS ONE | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0117860 February 26, 2015 9/18
There was no difference in rate of collision between the sexes when a male confederate was
walking against the stream of people. For our shortest male confederate (170 cm), our model
predicted that 54% of women and 55% of men respectively would collide with the confederate,
whereas for our tallest male confederate (200 cm), our model predicted that only 32% of
women and 33% of men would collide. There was no significant interaction between the height
of the confederate and the sex of the pedestrian (p= .33), nor did we find a three-way interac-
tion between the height of the confederate, the sex of the confederate and the sex of the pedes-
trian on the likelihood of a collision (p= .98). In summary, shorter confederates were more
likely to collide with pedestrians than were taller individuals. In addition, male pedestrians
were less likely to collide with female confederates than they were with male confederates.
Fig 3. Results from Study 2. The effect of confederate height on the likelihood that a pedestrian gave way (top panels; A, B) or collided with (bottom panels;
C, D) a female confederate (left panels; A, C) or male confederate (right panels; B, D).
Height and Dominance
PLOS ONE | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0117860 February 26, 2015 10 / 18
Study 3Maintaining ones pathway in a narrow passage
Preliminary analysis indicated that people of both sexes behaved differently depending on
whether there was a same-sex or opposite sex confederate. Rather than including the sex of the
confederate in our analyses, we instead included a binary variable that specified whether the
confederate was of the same sex as the pedestrian. We found a significant interaction between
height of the pedestrian and confederate sex on the likelihood of passing by the confederate
without deviating from their path (Table 2). When the confederate was of the opposite sex, tal-
ler individuals were more likely to yield and deviate from their path than shorter individuals
(p= .030; Table 2;Fig. 4). A short woman (two SD below height) was predicted to pass by the
confederate without deviating from her path with a likelihood of 68%, whereas for a tall
woman (two SD above height) this was reduced to 49%. For men, these same values were 62%
versus 41%. In contrast, when the confederate was of the same sex, there was no significant ef-
fect of height (parameter estimate for slope (± SE) = .12 (± .09); p= .17; obtained by reverse
coding the variable in the analysis), although the direction of the effect was in line with our hy-
pothesis, with taller individuals being less likely to give way. The likelihood that a tall woman
would pass the same-sex confederate in close proximity without any deviation was 69% versus
56% for a short woman. For men, these values were 62% versus 51% respectively. The positive
and negative slopes for pedestrian height depending on whether the confederate was of the
same sex did not differ statistically in magnitude as evidenced by the overlapping standard er-
rors of both estimates.
This two-way interaction did not differ by pedestrian sex as evidenced by the fact that there
was no significant three-way interaction between sex of the pedestrian, whether the confederate
was of the same sex, and height (p= .47). Thus, the effect of pedestrian height on the likelihood
of path deviation did not differ for male and female pedestrians. The two-way interaction
Table 2. Results from Study 3.
Likelihood that pedestrian passed by without deviating from
Parameter estimate (±SE)
Intercept 0.36 ±0.11 .002
Sex pedestrian
-0.30 ±.13 .019
Confederate same-sex
0.20 ±0.13 .120
Height pedestrian -0.21 ±0.095 .030
Height x Confederate same
0.32 ±0.13 .012
Random intercept
0.005 ±0.072
Marginal R
Conditional R
Logistic mixed model parameter estimates (±SE) for the likelihood of passing by the confederate without
deviating from path in relation to sex and height of the pedestrian, whether the confederate was of the
same sex as the pedestrian, and their interaction (N= 1,056). Non-independence due to confederate ID
was modelled as a random intercept.
Reference category is female
Reference category is confederate of different sex as pedestrian
Intercept at the level of confederate; variance estimate ±SD
; see text for explanation.
Height and Dominance
PLOS ONE | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0117860 February 26, 2015 11 / 18
between pedestrian height and same-sex confederate, however, explained twice as much of the
variation in path deviation for men (R
= .016) compared to women (R
= .008). In general,
men were significantly more likely to deviate from their path than women (Table 2). The per-
ceived age of the pedestrian had no significant effect (p= .18). Against our expectation, the
height of the confederate had no significant effect on whether the pedestrian would maintain
his or her path (p= .72), although this model did not converge. Therefore, to better assess the
effect of the relative height of the pedestrian compared to the confederate, we also ran models
in which we included the difference in height between the pedestrian and the confederate for
those encounters where the pedestrian was blocked by a same-sex confederate, in which we in-
cluded the sex of the pedestrian in order to assess whether there was any difference in response
in male versus female dyads. Relative height did not have a significant influence on the likeli-
hood of path deviation (Parameter estimate (±SE) = 0.014 (±0.009); p= 0.11). Including a cate-
gorical variable that coded whether the pedestrian was taller (or of equal height) versus shorter
than the confederate produced similar results (0.22 (±0.19); p= 0.26).
Overall then, for both male and female pedestrians, height was related to the likelihood of
path deviation, but the effect of height was dependent on the sex of the confederate blocking
the pathway. Taller pedestrians were less likely to maintain their path when the confederate
was of the opposite sex compared to shorter pedestrian. No effect of height was observed when
the confederate was of the same sex.
Fig 4. Results from Study 3. The effect of the pedestrian height (standardized) on the likelihood of
maintaining ones path (mean ±SE) and thereby passing close by an opposite-sex or same-sex confederate
who was partially blocking the pedestrians pathway (see Fig. 1C).
Height and Dominance
PLOS ONE | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0117860 February 26, 2015 12 / 18
Our results show that height is related to interpersonal dominance in a variety of social settings,
which we assessed in a series of observational studies. In our first study, we showed that taller
individuals were more likely to take precedence when entering a narrow passage wide enough
for only a single individual to pass. This effect was independent of both sex and perceived age.
To the best of our knowledge, this is the first evidence that height differences affect the out-
come of a brief dyadic interaction in a naturalistic setting. Given the nature of the observational
set-up, we were, however, unable to assess whether this effect was because taller individuals
actively take precedence, shorter individuals are more likely to give way, or both.
In a follow-up study, therefore, we investigated how pedestrians reacted towards confeder-
ates of varying height, as they walked along a busy shopping street. Pedestrians were more like-
ly to yield to taller than to shorter confederates by giving way and stepping aside. This was
equally true for both male and female confederates. In addition, when examining a more con-
frontational measure of dominanceactual physical contactwe found that taller confeder-
ates were less likely to collide with pedestrians than shorter ones. In line with the findings of
Study 1, therefore, we found that an individuals height influenced strongly the behaviour of
others in a dyadic encounter in a naturalistic setting.
In our third study, we assessed yet another behavioural measure of dominance: the social
distance adopted by people of different heights when passing by an unknown individual in a
confined space. We hypothesized that when pedestrians were confronted by an individual of
the same sex partially blocking their pathway, taller individuals would be less likely to yield and
so more likely to pass by within closer proximity than shorter individuals. Although our find-
ings were suggestive of this, the effect was not significant for confrontations between same sex
individuals. Moreover, we found exactly the opposite pattern to that predicted when we looked
at cases where an opposite-sex individual was blocking the pathway: taller pedestrians were
more likely to deviate from their path than were shorter individuals. The finding that pedestri-
ans react differently to confederates depending on their sex (also apparent in Study 2) is not
surprising. It seems entirely reasonable to expect that, in same-sex interactions, competition
will be more pronounced, whereas gender norms and mate choice concerns are more likely to
dominate in opposite-sex interactions. As an example of such a norm, we observed in Study 2
that male pedestrians were less likely to collide with female than male confederates. Similarly,
previous studies have shown that interpersonal attraction are related to proximity between two
individuals [49,50], such that those attracted to one another are in closer proximity.
One potential explanation for why height should be related to individual behaviour in oppo-
site-sex encounters relates to the absolute increase in physical size of taller men and women,
not only in the vertical dimension, but also in the horizontal dimension (due to allometry). Tal-
ler and, all else being equal, wider individuals (see e.g., [51]) perhaps choose to pass by the con-
federate at larger distances so as to ensure a lack of physical contact and maintain a certain
minimum distance. Such ideas fit well with research [51] showing that 1) taller men have wider
shoulders than shorter men (indeed, the authors believed there to be a somewhat universal
ratio between height and shoulder width); 2) taller men required larger shoulder movements to
move through small apertures; and 3) judgments of passableapertures relied on eye height
(and thus height). Thus for our study it may be that, because taller men and women perceive
that they are more likely to pass the confederate at an unacceptable (or at least uncomfortable)
degree of proximity, they instead choose to deviate from their original pathway in order to en-
sure that this does not occur. In contrast, shorter individuals, who are also less likely to be
wide, may be able to pass by the confederate at a distance that is neither perceptually nor abso-
lutely socially unacceptable. Although this argument is speculative, our study does provide
Height and Dominance
PLOS ONE | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0117860 February 26, 2015 13 / 18
some evidence in support: on average, men were more likely to yield and deviate from their
pathway than were women. Because men are on average larger than women, the distance at
which they pass by a stranger may be correspondingly higher. Indeed, our finding that men
were more likely to avoid close proximity conforms to a plethora of research indicating that
men require a larger amount of personal space, and greatly dislike any intrusion into this space
We did not find a statistically significant effect of the height of the confederate blocking the
passageway on the likelihood of the pedestrian to maintain its path in Study 3. One reason for
this could be due to our experimental set-up, which perhaps did not tap into aspects of domi-
nance as we assumed. In contrast to Study 1 and 2, there was no face-to-face interaction in
Study 3, because all the pedestrians approached our confederate from behind. As our confeder-
ates acted naturally, by leaning against the wall, with their heads slightly tilted to look at their
phone, pedestrians may not have perceived this event as a social encounter and, as such, may
not have felt either dominant or submissive. Furthermore, we may have used too few confeder-
ates (e.g. three males and four females), with too little variation in height, to be able to detect
statistical effects for variations in height in relation to this posture.
In conclusion, in two observational studies, we found clear evidence to support the notion
that human height is positively related to interpersonal dominance (at least when that person
is confronted by a same-sex individual), whereas the results from our third study were more
equivocal, although we nevertheless confirm that height affects every-day behaviour.
The increased dominance of taller men and women is likely to result from both perceptions
of the individuals themselves and the perceptions of others. Indeed, taller people are perceived
as more dominant [9,2830,33], and some of these biases are already apparent in very young
children [36]. Perhaps because of these perceptions, pedestrians were more likely give way and
less likely to collide with taller confederates compared to shorter confederates (Study 2). These
different perceptions of and behaviours towards taller compared to shorter individuals may
subsequently lead to increased self-esteem in taller individuals [9], which in turn is likely to af-
fect their dominance. Indeed, an individuals height also determined his or her behaviour to-
wards a confederate blocking their path (Study 3). Future studies could therefore address the
extent to which the relationship between height and interpersonal dominance is mediated by
an individuals direct perception of their own dominance in relation to height, versus the be-
haviour of others toward them in relation to their height. Manipulating height in a behavioural
study with actual people (e.g., such as wearing higher shoes), without changing any other vari-
ables is difficult. Studies using virtual reality techniques may be best suited to this purpose, as
the heights of individualsavatars can be manipulated without participantsawareness. Some
studies have already pursued this, demonstrating that, within a virtual reality setting, taller in-
dividuals made more unfair offers during economic games [40] with the behavioural effect of
being virtually tall extending to negotiating more aggressively in subsequent face-to-face inter-
actions [41].
Although the effect of height on dominance did not significantly differ between the sexes in
any of our studies, the effects of height were consistently stronger for men than for women.
This is in line with findings on the relationship between height and social status. While both
male and female height are positively related to measures of social status [9], the magnitude of
this relationship is significantly stronger for men than for women. Similarly, a recent study
showed that perceptions of leadership were more closely related to height for men, than for
women [32]. In addition, this study found that male height was positively associated with per-
ceived dominance, health, and intelligence, whereas female height was associated only with
perceived intelligence [32]. Height also has a differential effect on attractiveness for men and
women: whereas taller men are considered more attractive, women of average height are rated
Height and Dominance
PLOS ONE | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0117860 February 26, 2015 14 / 18
as most attractive in preference studies [54,55]. Overall, then, it seems clear that taller individu-
als are more likely to be dominant, but male height makes a more significant contribution to
this assessment than does female height, and this potentially can be explained by the relation-
ship between height and perceptions of dominance, intelligence, health, and attractiveness
A limitation of our behavioural studies is that we were only able to estimate the heights and
ages of the pedestrians, rather than recording their actual heights and ages. Although percep-
tions of age have been shown to be highly accurate [56] and were not of central interest to our
study, perceptual distortions of height in relation to status and dominance are well documented
(reviewed in [33]). For instance, individuals who are higher in status, or who behave in a more
dominant, risky, or aggressive fashion are perceived as taller than individuals who are lower in
status or who behave submissively [29,33,5760]. Similarly, taller individuals are perceived as
more dominant than shorter individuals [29,32]. These findings may pose a problem for our
observational studies, as height estimations were made during overt dominance interactions,
and estimations of dominant behaviour (e.g. refusing to yield, collisions) were made while the
height of the individuals involved was known (Study 1, 2). Our results could therefore be a con-
sequence of perceptual distortions on the part of the observers, rather than an actual beha-
vioural effect related to height. However, we believe that our results are unlikely to be a
consequence of these perceptual distortions for several reasons. First, several of our measures
could be easily and unambiguously assessed, such as the heights of the pedestrians relative to
markings on a wall (Study 1); whether any physical contact occurred between the confederate
and the pedestrian (Study 2) and which side of a pole a pedestrian would pass (Study 3). Sec-
ond, it is difficult to see how perceptual distortions of height could lead to the observed interac-
tion in our third study, as our behavioural measure of dominance was differentially affected by
height, in a manner that was also dependent on the sex of the confederate blocking the path-
way. For these reasons, we believe it is unlikely that our results are merely a consequence of a
perceptual distortion of height in relation to dominance, or perceptual distortions of domi-
nance on the basis of height. The use of video cameras to record interactions that can then be
scored by observers blind to the aims of the study may circumvent some of these problems. It
is, however, increasingly difficult to perform such studies without the awareness of the partici-
pants and ethical concerns with respect to privacy laws.
A second limitation of our behavioural studies is that all experimenters and confederates
were aware of the aims of the study. It would be very difficult to devise our studies in such a
way that experimenters could remain blind to these aims (particularly in Study 1 and 3). In ad-
dition, the recording of the heights (and age) of pedestrians and their behavioural interactions
was taxing for observers, and adding foilvariables could compromise study accuracy and pre-
cision with respect to the key variables of interest. The aim of our three observational studies
was therefore guessed easily, and we chose, therefore, to inform all experimenters and confed-
erates. The use of video cameras may again circumvent some of these problems.
Overall, our findings suggest that, even in the absence of overt physical aggression, height
influences the outcome of non-verbal confrontations between individuals. Thus, the increased
social status and upward social mobility of taller individuals in modern society, usually attrib-
uted to variables such as improved health and nutrition, may occur, at least in part, as a conse-
quence of their increased interpersonal dominance.
Supporting Information
S1 Dataset. Data from all three studies.
Height and Dominance
PLOS ONE | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0117860 February 26, 2015 15 / 18
We would like to thank Maaike Nijenhuis, Tobias Kordsmeyer, Laetitia de Vos, Merel Postma,
Relinde Rutten, Wiebke Ammerman, and Wouter van der Bij for their help with collecting the
data. We thank Louise Barrett for her assistance and providing useful comments on the manu-
script. We further thank the editor and three reviewers for their helpful comments that im-
proved the manuscript.
Author Contributions
Conceived and designed the experiments: GS APB SV TVP. Performed the experiments: GS.
Analyzed the data: GS. Wrote the paper: GS APB SV TVP.
1. Ellis BJ (1992) The evolution of sexual attraction: evaluative mechanisms in women. In: Barkow J, Cos-
mides L, Tooby J, editors. The adapted mind. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 267288.
2. Van Vugt M, Hogan R, Kaiser RB (2008) Leadership, followership, and evolution: some lessons from
the past. Am Psychol 63: 182196. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.63.3.182 PMID: 18377108
3. Gawley T, Perks T, Curtis J (2009) Height, gender, and authority status at work: analyses for a national
sample of canadian workers. Sex Roles 60: 208222. doi: 10.1007/s11199-008-9520-5
4. Cavelaars AEJM, Kunst AE, Geurts JJM, Crialesi R, Grotvedt L, et al. (2000) Persistent variations in av-
erage height between countries and between socio-economic groups: an overview of 10 European
countries. Ann Hum Biol 27: 407421. doi: 10.1080/03014460050044883 PMID: 10942348
5. Stogdill RM (1948) Personal factors associated with leadership: a survey of the literature. J Psychol
25: 3571. doi: 10.1080/00223980.1948.9917362 PMID: 18901913
6. Silventoinen K, Krueger RF, Bouchard TJ, Kaprio J, McGue M (2004) Heritability of body height and ed-
ucational attainment in an international context: Comparison of adult twins in Minnesota and Finland.
Am J Hum Biol 16: 544555. doi: 10.1002/ajhb.20060 PMID: 15368602
7. Stulp G, Pollet TV, Verhulst S, Buunk AP (2012) A curvilinear effect of height on reproductive success
in human males. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 66: 375384. doi: 10.1007/s00265-011-1283-2 PMID:
8. Stulp G, Verhulst S, Pollet TV, Buunk AP (2012) The effect of female height on reproductive success is
negative in Western populations, but more variable in non-Western populations. Am J Hum Biol 24:
486494. doi: 10.1002/ajhb.22252 PMID: 22410858
9. Judge TA, Cable DM (2004) The effect of physical height on workplace success and income: Prelimi-
nary test of a theoretical model. J Appl Psychol 89: 428441. doi: 10.1037/0021-9010.89.3.428 PMID:
10. Silventoinen K, Lahelma E, Rahkonen O (1999) Social background, adult body-height and health. Int J
Epidemiol 28: 911918. doi: 10.1093/ije/28.5.911 PMID: 10597991
11. Persico N, Postlewaite A, Silverman D (2004) The effect of adolescent experience on labor market out-
comes: the case of height. Natl Bur Econ Res Work Pap Ser No. 10522.
12. Case A, Paxson C (2008) Stature and Status: Height, Ability, and Labor Market Outcomes. J Polit Econ
116: 499532. doi: 10.1086/589524 PMID: 19603086
13. Nystrom Peck AM (1992) Childhood environment, intergenerational mobility, and adult healthevi-
dence from Swedish data. J Epidemiol Community Heal 46: 7174. doi: 10.1136/jech.46.1.71
14. Cernerud L (1995) Height and Social Mobility: A Study of the Height of 10 Year Olds in Relation to
Socio-economic Background and Type of Formal Schooling. Scand J Public Health 23: 2831. doi: 10.
15. Krzyżanowska M, Mascie-Taylor CG (2011) Intra- and intergenerational social mobility in relation to
height, weight and body mass index in a British national cohort. J Biosoc Sci 43: 611618. doi: 10.
1017/S0021932011000137 PMID: 21418729
16. Bielicki T, Charzewski J (1983) Body height and upward social mobility. Ann Hum Biol 10: 403408.
doi: 10.1080/03014468300006591 PMID: 6638935
17. Magnusson PKE, Rasmussen F, Gyllensten UB (2006) Height at age 18 years is a strong predictor of
attained education later in life: cohort study of over 950 000 Swedish men. Int J Epidemiol 35: 658
663. doi: 10.1093/ije/dyl011 PMID: 16446353
Height and Dominance
PLOS ONE | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0117860 February 26, 2015 16 / 18
18. Drews C (1993) The Concept and Definition of Dominance in Animal Behaviour. Behaviour 125: 283
313. doi: 10.1163/156853993x00290
19. Darwin C (1871) The descent of man and selection in relation to sex. London: John Murray.
20. Archer J (1988) The biology of aggression. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
21. Ellis L (1994) The high and the mighty among men and beast: How universal is the relationship be-
tween height (or body size) and social status. In: Ellis L, editor. Social stratification and socioeconomic
inequality. Reproductive and interpersonal aspects of dominance and Status, vol. 2. Westport:
Praeger. pp. 93111.
22. Andersson M (1994) Sexual Selection. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
23. Puts DA (2010) Beauty and the beast: mechanisms of sexual selection in humans. Evol Hum Behav
31: 157175. doi: 10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2010.02.005
24. Sell A, Cosmides L, Tooby J, Sznycer D, von Rueden C, et al. (2009) Human adaptations for the visual
assessment of strength and fighting ability from the body and face. Proc R Soc B Biol Sci 276: 575
584. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2008.1177 PMID: 18945661
25. Archer J, Thanzami V (2007) The relation between physical aggression, size and strength, among a
sample of young Indian men. Pers Individ Dif 43: 627633. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2007.01.005
26. Von Rueden C, Gurven M, Kaplan H (2008) The multiple dimensions of male social status in an Amazo-
nian society. Evol Hum Behav 29: 402415. doi: 10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2008.05.001 PMID:
27. Buunk AP, Park JH, Zurriaga R, Klavina L, Massar K (2008) Height predicts jealousy differently for men
and women. Evol Hum Behav 29: 133139. doi: 10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2007.11.006
28. Cinnirella F, Winter J (2009) Size matters! Body height and labor market discrimination: A cross-Euro-
pean analysis. CESifo Work Pap No. 2733.
29. Marsh AA, Yu HH, Schechter JC, Blair RJR (2009) Larger than life: humansnonverbal status cues
alter perceived size. PLoS One 4: e5707. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0005707 PMID: 19479082
30. Young TJ, French LA (1996) Height and perceived competence of U.S. presidents. Percept Mot Skills
82: 1002. PMID: 8774043
31. Stulp G, Buunk AP, Verhulst S, Pollet TV (2013) Tall claims? Sense and nonsense about the impor-
tance of height of US presidents. Leadersh Q 24: 159171. doi: 10.1016/j.leaqua.2012.09.002
32. Blaker NM, Rompa I, Dessing IH, Florijn Vriend A, Herschberg C, et al. (2013) The height leadership
advantage in men and women: testing evolutionary psychology predictions about the perceptions of tall
leaders. Gr Process Intergr Relations 16: 1727. doi: 10.1177/1368430212437211
33. Blaker NM, Van Vugt M (2014) The status-size hypothesis: How cues of physical size and social status
influence each other. In: Cheng JT, Tracy JL, Anderson C, editors. The Psychology of Social Status.
Springer. pp. 119137.
34. Re DE, Dzhelyova M, Holzleitner IJ, Tigue CC, Feinberg DR, et al. (2012) Apparent height and body
mass index influence perceived leadership ability in three-dimensional faces. Perception 41: 1477
1485. doi: 10.1068/p7342 PMID: 23586287
35. Murray GR, Schmitz JD (2011) Caveman politics: Evolutionary leadership preferences and physical
stature. Soc Sci Q 92: 12151235. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-6237.2011.00815.x
36. Thomsen L, Frankenhuis WE, Ingold-Smith M, Carey S (2011) Big and mighty: preverbal infants men-
tally represent social dominance. Science 331: 477480. doi: 10.1126/science.1199198 PMID:
37. Pellegrini AD, Roseth CJ, Mliner S, Bohn CM, Van Ryzin M, et al. (2007) Social dominance in preschool
classrooms. J Comp Psychol 121: 5464. doi: 10.1037/0735-7036.121.1.54 PMID: 17324075
38. Voss LD, Mulligan J (2000) Bullying in school: are short pupils at risk? Questionnaire study in a cohort.
Br Med J 320: 612613. doi: 10.1136/bmj.320.7235.612
39. Huang W, Olson JS, Olson GM (2002) Camera angle effects dominance in video-mediated communi-
cation. Proc Conf Hum Factors Comput Syst: 716717. doi: 10.1145/506443.506562
40. Yee N, Bailenson J (2007) The Proteus Effect: The Effect of Transformed Self-Representation on Be-
havior. Hum Commun Res 33: 271290. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2958.2007.00299.x
41. Yee N, Bailenson JN, Ducheneaut N (2009) The Proteus Effect: Implications of Transformed Digital
Self-Representation on Online and Offline Behavior. Communic Res 36: 285312. doi: 10.1177/
42. Stulp G, Buunk AP, Verhulst S, Pollet TV (2012) High and mighty: height increases authority in profes-
sional refereeing. Evol Psychol 10: 588601. PMID: 22947680
Height and Dominance
PLOS ONE | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0117860 February 26, 2015 17 / 18
43. Cohen D, Nisbett R (1996) Insult, aggression, and the southern culture of honor: An experimental eth-
nography. J Pers Soc Psychol 70: 945960. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.70.5.945 PMID: 8656339
44. Schönbeck Y, Talma H, van Dommelen P, Bakker B, Buitendijk SE, et al. (2013) The worlds tallest na-
tion has stopped growing taller: the height of Dutch children from 1955 to 2009. Pediatr Res 73: 371
377. doi: 10.1038/pr.2012.189 PMID: 23222908
45. R Development Core Team (2008) R: A Language and Environment for Statistical Computing. Vienna,
Austria: R Foundation for Statistical Computing.
46. Bates D, Maechler M, Bolker B, Walker S (2014) _lme4: Linear mixed-effects models using Eigen and
S4_. R package version 1.17.
47. Nakagawa S, Schielzeth H (2013) A general and simple method for obtaining R2 from generalized line-
ar mixed-effects models. Methods Ecol Evol 4: 133142. doi: 10.1111/j.2041-210x.2012.00261.x
48. BartońK (2014) MuMIn: Multi-model inference. R package version 1.10.5.
49. Fisher JD, Byrne D (1975) Too close for comfort: Sex differences in response to invasions of personal
space. J Pers Soc Psychol 32: 1521. doi: 10.1037/h0076837
50. Sundstrom E, Altman I (1976) Interpersonal relationships and personal space: Research review and
theoretical model. Hum Ecol 4: 4767. doi: 10.1007/BF01531456
51. Warren WH, Whang S (1987) Visual guidance of walking through apertures: Body-scaled information
for affordances. J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform 13: 371383. doi: 10.1037//0096-1523.13.3.371
PMID: 2958586
52. Camperio Ciani A, Malaman M (2002) Where to sit in a waiting room: density, age and gender effects
on proxemic choices. Hum Evol 17: 175185. doi: 10.1007/BF02436369
53. Kenner AN, Katsimaglis G (1993) Gender differences in proxemics: taxi-seat choice. Psychol Rep 72:
625626. doi: 10.2466/pr0.1993.72.2.625
54. Courtiol A, Raymond M, Godelle B, Ferdy J-B (2010) Mate choice and human stature: homogamy as a
unified framework for understanding mating preferences. Evolution (N Y) 64: 21892203. doi: 10.1111/
j.1558-5646.2010.00985.x PMID: 20199563
55. Stulp G, Buunk AP, Kurzban R, Verhulst S (2013) The height of choosiness: mutual mate choice for
stature results in suboptimal pair formation for both sexes. Anim Behav 86: 3746. doi: 10.1016/j.
56. Rhodes MG (2009) Age estimation of faces: a review. Appl Cogn Psychol 23: 112. doi: 10.1002/acp.
57. Wilson PR (1968) Perceptual distortion of height as a function of ascribed academic status. J Soc Psy-
chol 74: 97102. doi: 10.1080/00224545.1968.9919806 PMID: 5640254
58. Fessler DMT, Holbrook C, Snyder JK (2012) Weapons Make the Man (Larger): Formidability Is Repre-
sented as Size and Strength in Humans. PLoS One 7: e32751. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0032751
PMID: 22509247
59. Holbrook C, Fessler DMT (2013) Sizing up the threat: The envisioned physical formidability of terrorists
tracks their leadersfailures and successes. Cognition 127: 4656. doi: 10.1016/j.cognition.2012.12.
002 PMID: 23333835
60. Fessler DMT, Tiokhin LB, Holbrook C, Gervais MM, Snyder JK (2014) Foundations of the Crazy Bas-
tard Hypothesis: Nonviolent physical risk-taking enhances conceptualized formidability. Evol Hum
Behav 35: 2633. doi: 10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2013.09.003
Height and Dominance
PLOS ONE | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0117860 February 26, 2015 18 / 18
... Voice is one of the most striking characteristics of each person's uniqueness, to the point that it can be used in forensic medicine (25). Voice is one of more important milestones of sexual dimorphism established at puberty (linked to GH and sex steroids), maintained in adulthood, and attenuated in senescence (26,27). The impact of severe IGHD on voice is so important that it counteracts the effect of puberty and aging on the structure of the vocal fold, thereby preventing the variation of its fundamental frequency associated with aging (13). ...
... These examples show the importance of the relationship between voice and GH. In different cultures, higher stature (26) and voice characteristics (32) are linked to higher social status, but the relevance of each factor to social status is presently unknown. In the present work, we used voice therapy and artistic intervention (choir singing) to test the hypothesis that voice training can affect quality of life. ...
Full-text available
Objective: Currently, not much is known about the interactions between voice and growth hormone (GH). We have described large kindred with isolated GH deficiency (IGHD) due to a GHRH receptor mutation, resulting in severe short stature and high-pitched voice. These IGHD individuals have little interest in GH treatment, as they consider themselves "short long-lived people", rather than patients. Interestingly, they report normal general quality of life, but they rate their Voice-Related Quality of Life (V-RQOL) as low. Here, we assessed the social and auditory-perceptual impacts of artistic-intervention voice therapy with semioccluded vocal tract exercises (SOVTE) and choral singing, on their voices. Methods: Seventeen GH-naïve adult IGHD individuals were enrolled in a single-arm interventional pre-post study with 13 weekly sessions of choir singing over 90 days. Outcome measures were V-RQOL scores, self-assessment of voice, and auditory-perceptual analysis (GRBAS scale, G: grade of the severity of dysphonia; R: roughness; B: breathiness; A: asthenia; and S: strain). Results: Marked improvements in total (p = 0.0001), physical (p = 0.0002), and socioemotional (p = 0.0001) V-RQOL scores and in self-assessment of voice (p = 0.004) were found. The general grades of vocal deviation (p = 0.0001), roughness (p = 0.0001), breathiness (p = 0.0001) and strain (p = 0.0001) exhibited accentuated reductions. Conclusion: Voice therapy with semioccluded vocal tract exercises and choral training improved social impact and perceptual voice assessments in IGHD subjects and markedly improved their voice-related quality of life. This is particularly important in a setting where GH replacement therapy is not widely accepted.
... The reduced physical contact may result from the greater physical distance between taller individuals and dogs. Also, taller individuals may be used to being seen as dominant and so may tend to command but not communicate (68). Dogs are more stressed and defensive when facing men than women possibly due to their greater height that is perceived as intimidating (25). ...
Full-text available
Different people relate to dogs in different ways. We investigated differences between volunteers in their behavioural interactions with shelter dogs when they were walked on a leash. Cameras were used to record and quantify the behaviour of volunteers and a leash tension metre was used to measure pulling by both volunteers and shelter dogs. Effects of volunteers' age, body height, educational level, marital status, and experiences of living and working with dogs, and living with children, were examined. Older volunteers talked to the dogs more often during the walk than younger ones. Taller volunteers had reduced physical contact with dogs, and dogs pulled more frequently on the leash while walking with them. Volunteers with a postgraduate degree more frequently praised dogs and rewarded dogs with food and used more body language in the form of hand gestures and physical contact. Married and partnered volunteers more often praised dogs, while separated/divorced or widowed volunteers initiated more frequent physical contacts. Dogs pulled less when walking with volunteers who had experience of living with dogs, and these volunteers interacted with dogs using fewer verbal and body languages. Finally, those living with children more frequently communicated with dogs using body language (e.g., hand gestures and physical contact). We conclude that shelters should carefully consider volunteers' demographics when selecting them to walk dogs with various behavioural characteristics.
... In such circumstances, a physically formidable male leader would have increased the chances of a group's success and survival, increasing individuals' chances of survival and reproductive fitness. Hence, we probably inherited the psychological tendency to perceive the features 'tall' and 'masculine' to be associated with the 'big man' leader (Kniffin et al., 2019;Stulp et al., 2015). Being so perceived, it is easier for people with those features to rise to and assume leadership positions (Re et al., 2013). ...
Full-text available
We examine core assumptions of I/O and evolutionary psychology—assumptions about human nature, social and organizational systems, and methods for predicting and changing human behavior in organizations. We then review research and theory that integrates ideas from evolutionary psychology into areas of I/O psychology—including organizational design and change, leadership, decision-making, family businesses, women and work, workplace design and well-being, sustainability, and diversity. We also examine some of the possible reasons why I/O psychology (and management more broadly) have been less fertile ground for evolutionary psychology compared with other areas of psychology and the social sciences. We conclude with areas for future directions—where we see evolutionary psychology making an impact, the need for evolutionary psychology to make a greater contribution to I/O psychology, and strategies for increasing the number of scholars studying and making contributions to an evolutionary industrial and organizational psychology.
... As such, more capable individuals have a higher likelihood of enjoying greater levels of autonomy such as making their own decisions regarding tasks and working hours, factors that are more predictably associated with entrepreneurship than with wage employment (Benz & Frey, 2008;Patzelt & Shepherd, 2011). Moreover, height is positively associated with the emergence of leadership and leadership effectiveness, which are both qualities that are necessary for running one's own business (Lindqvist, 2012;Stulp et al., 2013Stulp et al., , 2015. Height is also associated with a higher level of physical power and strength, both of which are required for many types of entrepreneurship, for instance, within the field of agriculture (Sohn, 2015;Thomas & Strauss, 1997). ...
Full-text available
We examine the association between height and entrepreneurship in 27 nations, finding that the relationship between height and entrepreneurship can be considered to be a two-stage process. During the first stage, individuals make the decision of whether or not to try to set up their own business. At this stage, the effect of height is stronger: each 10-cm increase in height is associated with an approximately 1.4 percentage point increase in the probability of having tried to set up a business. During the second stage, after a positive decision to embark upon entrepreneurship has already been taken, people may find success in setting up their business. At this stage, although taller individuals are still more likely to experience success than their shorter counterparts, the effect of height becomes much weaker. Each 10-cm increase in height is associated with an approximately 0.4 percentage point increase in the probability of having tried to set up a business without success, and an approximately 0.4 percentage point increase in the likelihood of having set up a business in which the respondent is no longer involved, or that is no longer operational. Finally, each 10-cm increase in height is associated with an approximately 1 percentage point increase in the probability of remaining an entrepreneur. At the same time, we found that the effect of height is stronger in magnitude than the effects of gender, health and university education. This finding is remarkable insofar as gender, health and university education are usually considered to be the main determinants of entrepreneurship.
... Kirchengast (2010) examined minimum height requirements for police officers in Europe (in about 50% of the countries examined such requirements existed) and found that the main reasons reported for height standards were that taller heights of police officers implicate power and status, that tallness is associated with physical fitness, and that tallness has psychological benefits. Indeed, one might expect that tallness might make much police work easier as there is for example evidence that on the street, people are significantly more likely to give way to taller individuals than to shorter individuals (Stulp et al., 2015). This study is quite relevant for police work, given the fact that police work often requires dominance in interpersonal confrontations, for example when writing out a fine, when making an arrest, or when maintaining order. ...
Full-text available
This study among 725 male and 247 female police officers from The Netherlands examined the association between self-reported height and occupational rank from the perspective of sexual selection. Male and female police officers were taller than the average population. A larger percentage of women than of men was found in the lowest ranks, but in the leadership positions, there was a similar percentage of women as of men. Overall, but especially among women, height was linearly associated with occupational rank: the taller one was, the higher one’s rank. These effects were independent of educational level and age. The implications for evolutionary theorizing from the perspective of sexual selection on the effect of tallness on status and dominance among women are discussed.
Mixed traffic of multiple road users may increase when machines and future mobilities are gradually introduced in human society to satisfy the travel and service needs of people. For providing a safe and comfortable walking environment for pedestrians in the mixed streets with various mobilities, this study proposes the envelope theorem based on the contributions and limitations of the previous explorations in human–machine coexistence. The envelope is divided into physical and mental envelopes. The main focus of this study is the mental envelope (ME) which is a psychological boundary used to distinguish the range of comfort and unpleasantness in people’s minds. ME as the expansion of previous interpersonal distance can explain the pedestrian perceptions from different perspectives. This paper discusses the definition, expressions, and applications of ME, and then explores its determinants and relationships by conducting structural equation modeling (SEM) based on the questionnaire survey. The findings may assist to create better road allocation in the future.
Inferring individuals’ social rank—their position within a hierarchy—is central to many interactions. But, how do observers assess actors’ social rank? The current article reviews three broad sources of social-rank cues: physical characteristics, behaviors, and possessions. First, observers infer an actor’s social rank from ancestral stereotypes tethered to physical characteristics. Second, observers ascribe social rank to an actor from behaviors that range from nonverbal communication to explicit acts. Finally, observers assume an actor’s social rank from others’ possessions. The present review emphasizes recent developments in these areas and poses question for future research.
Technical Report
Full-text available
Description Fit linear and generalized linear mixed-effects models. The models and their components are represented using S4 classes and methods. The core computational algorithms are implemented using the 'Eigen' C++ library for numerical linear algebra and 'RcppEigen' ``glue''.
Full-text available
The current chapter investigates the relationship between someone's physical size and assessments of their social status. Physical size is related to status in many species-including humans- and may affect both real and perceived status. We refer to this as the status-size hypothesis, the automatic association between physical size and position in a status hierarchy. We review the evidence for this hypothesis, drawing on both human and non-human data. Furthermore, we distinguish between different aspects of physical size and pathways to obtain status in groups with implications for the status-size effect. We find that height and muscularity differently affect status perception, and that status obtained through coercion (dominance) differently affects size perception than status obtained through voluntary deference (prestige). Furthermore, contextual cues of competition versus cooperation moderate the status-size relationship. A review of results from various studies, including our own, supports various predictions from the hypothesis: (a) high status dominant and prestigious individuals are estimated taller, and (b) taller individuals are estimated higher in prestige and dominance-based status; (c) dominant high-status individuals are perceived as more muscular than prestigious high-status individuals, (d) more muscular individuals are perceived as dominant but not necessarily prestigious; finally (e) unlike adults, primary school-aged children associate size with dominance but not with prestige, suggesting that though dominance may be universally linked to increased size, the relationship between height and prestige is culturally learned. © Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014. All rights are reserved.
Full-text available
Research suggests that tall individuals have an advantage over short individuals in terms of status, prestige, and leadership, though it is not clear why. Applying an evolutionary psychology perspective, we predicted that taller individuals are seen as more leader-like because they are perceived as more dominant, healthy, and intelligent. Being fit and physically imposing were arguably important leadership qualities in ancestral human environments—perhaps especially for males—where being a leader entailed considerable physical risks. In line with our expectations, our results demonstrate that by manipulating an individual’s stature height positively influences leadership perception for both men and women, though the effect is stronger for men. For male leaders this height leadership advantage is mediated by their perceived dominance, health, and intelligence; while for female leaders this effect is only mediated by perceived intelligence.
Full-text available
Existing definitions can be structural or functional, refer to roles or to agonistic behaviour, regard dominance as a property of individuals or as an attribute of dyadic encounters, concentrate on aggression or on the lack of it, and be based either on theoretical constructs or on observable behaviour. Thirteen definitions of dominance are reviewed, and their usefulness assessed with respect to their descriptive value. By virtue of its high descriptive value, the original definition of dominance by Schjelderupp-Ebbe (1922) emerged as the basis to formulate a structural definition with wide applicability and which reflects the essence of the concept: Dominance is an attribute of the pattern of repeated, agonistic interactions between two individuals, characterized by a consistent outcome in favour of the same dyad member and a default yielding response of its opponent rather than escalation. Dominance status refers to dyads while dominance rank, high or low, refers to the position in a hierarchy and, thus, depends on group composition. Dominance is a relative measure and not an absolute property of individuals. Discussion includes reference to the heritability of dominance, application of dominance to groups rather than individuals, and the role of individual recognition and memory during agonistic encounters. -from Author
Tools for performing model selection and model averaging. Automated model selection through subsetting the maximum model, with optional constraints for model inclusion. Model parameter and prediction averaging based on model weights derived from information criteria (AICc and alike) or custom model weighting schemes. [Please do not request the full text - it is an R package. The up-to-date manual is available from CRAN].
Background. Adult body height has been related to socioeconomic position in cross-sectional studies. Intelligence, shared family factors, and non-familial circumstances may contribute to associations between height and attained education, but their relative importance has been difficult to resolve. Methods. A nation-wide record-linkage cohort study of over 950 000 Swedish men born 1950-75 followed with respect to attained education for up to 27 years after measurement of height at age 18 (baseline). The association between height and attained education in later life was investigated by logistic regression modelling with adjustment for age, geography, parental socioeconomic position, and cognitive ability. Shared family factors were accounted for in analyses of full-brother-pairs using conditional logistic regression. Results. The odds ratio (OR) for attaining higher education 7- 27 years after baseline was 1.10 [95% confidence interval (95% CI) 1.09-1.10] in fully adjusted models per 5 cm increase in height. Men taller than 194 cm were two to three times more likely to obtain a higher education as compared with men shorter than 165 cm. The association remained within brother-pairs, OR 1.08 (95% CI 1.07-1.10), suggesting that non-familial factors contribute to the association between height and education attainment. A significant interaction (P < 0.0001) was found between year of birth, height, and attained education, showing slightly weaker associations among later birth cohorts. Conclusions. The strong positive association between height and educational achievement remaining after adjustment for year of birth, parental socioeconomic position, other shared family factors, and cognitive ability may reflect educational discrimination based on height although residual confounding cannot be ruled out.
Wilson and Daly’s Young Male Syndrome thesis seeks to explain why young men are disproportionally involved in both violence and non-violent activities entailing a risk of injury or death. One interpretation of this thesis, which we term the Crazy Bastard Hypothesis, holds that the correlation between violence and other forms of physical risk-taking occurs because the latter behaviors inherently index the general propensity to take risks with one’s life. In violent conflicts, individuals who are indifferent to the prospect of injury or death constitute dangerous adversaries, and valuable allies. Voluntary physical risk-taking may thus serve a signaling function such that risk-prone individuals are perceived as more formidable than risk-averse individuals. Prior work has demonstrated that relative formidability is represented using the dimensions of conceptualized size and strength, providing an avenue for testing the Crazy Bastard Hypothesis. In multiple studies conducted in two disparate societies, we demonstrate that physically risk-prone men are envisioned to be larger, stronger, and more violent than risk-averse men. A separate study reveals that such conceptualizations are unlikely to reflect actual correlations between size/strength and physical risk-proneness, and are instead plausibly interpreted as revealing the contribution of observed physical risk-proneness to assessments of relative formidability.
In the current resurgence of interest in the biological basis of animal behavior and social organization, the ideas and questions pursued by Charles Darwin remain fresh and insightful. This is especially true of The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex, Darwin's second most important work. This edition is a facsimile reprint of the first printing of the first edition (1871), not previously available in paperback. The work is divided into two parts. Part One marshals behavioral and morphological evidence to argue that humans evolved from other animals. Darwin shoes that human mental and emotional capacities, far from making human beings unique, are evidence of an animal origin and evolutionary development. Part Two is an extended discussion of the differences between the sexes of many species and how they arose as a result of selection. Here Darwin lays the foundation for much contemporary research by arguing that many characteristics of animals have evolved not in response to the selective pressures exerted by their physical and biological environment, but rather to confer an advantage in sexual competition. These two themes are drawn together in two final chapters on the role of sexual selection in humans. In their Introduction, Professors Bonner and May discuss the place of The Descent in its own time and relation to current work in biology and other disciplines.