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Does Your Height Affect Your Success? Is Taller Really Smarter?

As a psychology major at the University of North Texas, C. E. Clark found, and continues to find psychology endlessly fascinating.

Research shows that tall people, both men and women, tend to be more successful in their careers than short people. At the same time, there are many successful people who are also short.

A few successful short people include Senator John McCain (5’7”), Jon Stewart (5’7”), Prince (5’2”), James Madison, 4th President of the U.S. at 5’4”), Dolly Parton (5’0”), Martin Luther King (5’7”), and Danny Devito (5’0”).

Romantically Speaking, Men Have the Advantage Where Height Is Concerned

When it comes to romantic interests, women generally prefer men who are a couple of inches taller than themselves. There is a difference between preferring tall men (6 feet tall and over), and preferring men a couple of inches taller than themselves.

Men usually prefer petite women romantically speaking, regardless of their own height. Men would seem to have the advantage when it comes to romantic preferences of the opposite sex. Women prefer men who are a little taller than themselves, while men want tiny, short, women even when they are 6 feet tall and over.

Biology and Evolution May Play a Part In Our Attitudes On Height

“Theoretically, the importance of height has evolutionary origins, because animals use height as an index for power and strength when making fight-or-flight decisions. Quoting D. G. Freedman (1979), “Throughout nature the rule is the bigger, the more dangerous.” Thus, from a socio-biological perspective, height equals power and therefore demands respect, (Judge).”

Does taller mean smarter?

Subconsciously, people do equate taller with smarter and being more competent.  Time to rethink what we think?

Subconsciously, people do equate taller with smarter and being more competent. Time to rethink what we think?

Are Tall People Smarter?

Some researchers have gone so far as to say that taller people are more successful simply because they are smarter. This is an interesting way of looking at things. You see, the reason some people are taller is not just a result of genetics as one might expect, but also of socioeconomic level, (Hall).

Underprivileged children do not always receive the necessary proper nutrition either prenatally or postnatally. That can obviously affect not only their height (undernourished children tend to be shorter among other things), but also their brain development, which may in turn affect their intelligence and ability to learn, (Hall). This would be a good reason to see that all pregnant women and all children receive good nutrition. After all, children are the future of our country are they not?

What it really boils down to where intelligence is concerned, in my humble opinion, is that people who reach their height potential, whether the end result is taller or shorter on average, tend to be smarter than people who do not, because they almost certainly received the necessary nutrients and other growth requirements during gestation and their postnatal years necessary to reach their biological potential. Therefore one cannot assume short people are less intelligent than tall people because even though some people are short, they may still have reached their optimum height potential.

Employers Seem To Prefer Taller Employees

It is true that many employers equate tallness with more capability and competence. Tall people are hired more often and promoted more often than short people, when employers must choose between tall and short candidates (Judge).

An interesting bit of trivia that pertains to this topic is the fact that “in the 28 presidential elections between 1790 and 2011, 18 of the winning candidates have been taller than their opponents,” (Wikipedia).

The Short and the Tall of It

Most of the time the tall guy gets the job and the girl.

Most of the time the tall guy gets the job and the girl.

What Part Does Height Play In Your Assessment of People?

What is your opinion on height? Is it a consideration when deciding to date someone? Do you think tall people are smarter or easier going? (Some people believe short people suffer from a neurosis referred to as the Napoleon Complex where a person’s “short stature makes them feel inadequate, leading to an inferiority complex and the adoption of overaggressive behavior to compensate for lack of height and power,” (Judge).

As with so many common beliefs some people hold, sometimes it is a good idea to take inventory of just what you believe and why you believe it. It may be time to tweak your beliefs on height . . .

References for this hub:

Hall, Stephen S. “Success Is Relative, and Height Isn’t Everything.” The New York Times, Health November 28, 2006: n. page. Online. Internet. 22 November 2011. Available

Judge, Timothy A., and Cable, Daniel M. “The Effect of Physical Height on Workplace Success and Income: Preliminary Test of a Theoretical Model.” Journal of Applied Psychology 2004, Vol. 89, No. 3,428-441. Online. Internet. 22 November 2011. Available

Wikipedia. Height Discrimination. October 30, 20ll. Online. Internet. 22 November 2011. Available

Wikipedia. Heights of Presidents of the United States and presidential candidates. November 2 2011. Online. Internet. 22 November 2011. Available


Robert Sacchi on December 31, 2016:

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I believe there are some studies that bear that out.

C E Clark (author) from North Texas on December 31, 2016:

Robert Sacchi, I was listening to/watching videos about intelligence and here is one of the videos that stated taller people are smarter:

There were a few other videos that did the same, but I can't remember how I found them or which ones they were. Several alluded to a study done at Princeton University that determined taller people are smarter:

Robert Sacchi on December 30, 2016:

Do you remember where you read the article?

C E Clark (author) from North Texas on December 30, 2016:

Robert Sacchi, thank you for reading and commenting on this article. I read just yesterday that taller people are usually smarter than shorter people.

This last election was such a fiasco I wonder if they'll ever get it sorted out. I would say that Hillary's being a woman hurt her more than her height since no one expects a woman to be taller than a man, but in fact she got 3 million more votes than Trump, so really it was the Electoral College that caused the problem rather than doing it's job of preventing an unqualified person from becoming president.

Robert Sacchi on December 08, 2016:

In the latest presidential election height proved a better predictor than the experts. More telling might be the results of presidential elections starting in the 20th century. That is when technology enabled the populace to get the, pardon the pun, full measure of the candidates. Your example of successful people includes comics. In the case of Danny Divito he got his start by playing Louie, the short office tyrant. An interesting indicator is how people view successful people based on a successful person's height.

C E Clark (author) from North Texas on July 07, 2014:

Peggy W, thank you for Google+ing and sharing this article!

C E Clark (author) from North Texas on July 05, 2014:

Vily_far, thank you for stopping by. That is exactly what I wrote about here. People's attitudes towards tall people is what keeps the idea that taller is smarter alive.

It's been a while, but all the way through elementary school I was one of the tallest kids in the class. I always felt like a giant. I'm only 5'5" but during early age that is pretty tall. I was that tall at age 11 and always tall for my age.

It's still really just societies silly ideas that men must be taller than their girlfriends or wives. You should reprogram yourself about that, and don't expect it to be easy, but with diligence it can be done. Some short men dream about tall women, yes they do . . .;)

vily_far on July 02, 2014:

I've also read a couple of studies that taller people tend to be more successful because of the attitude that others have towards them. As a tall girl, however, I find it a bit challenging, especially if I want to wear high heels in the company of shorter guys :). It tends to be a bit awkward.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on July 01, 2014:

I am sending this hub of yours to G+ this time and will once again share.

C E Clark (author) from North Texas on May 27, 2014:

EvilOne, thanks for stopping by and sharing your frustration. Lots of short guys are successful and I even named a few in this article. Giving up even before you try is all but a guarantee for failure.

Never color inside the lines -- boring is far worse than being short. :)

EvilOne on May 25, 2014:

Who says Im any different from other people?

Height is everything in western, or perhaps all societies (human nature).

I don't want a short girl either, no matter how hypocritical it sounds - that's just how it is.

If I got one, I would dump her for a taller one in a flash. Unfortunately, its awkward with taller girls (I freeze out) and even when one does want me (its happened quite a few times because I have a classically good looking face - unlike some, for example, chinese guys who have a more nerdy face) I freeze out. Also being around men with arms thicker than my neck makes me freeze out too. Its too dangerous for a short guy to get a genuinely good looking girlfriend in western countries unless hes super buff and has no sense of self preservation.

Also, much of human life is instinct... I have the same instinct that makes men and women look down upon short men as vaguely pathetic. So I see myself as pathetic as well.

Even if I did get a tall/average height girl, overcoming internal instinctual barriers and external stigmas - it wont change that men treat me as a permanent afterthought... making it impossible for me to work to my potential (why should I when I know Ill never move up to cushy management level jobs later on in life because an unstated requirement is to be average height to tall? - Im not stupid).

Im not sure what I am going to do, but stupid color in the lines BS like starting a dating service isn't for me. Ill stay a few more years and make some money... maybe if I hit it off with a great girl, Ill stay. If not, I'll leave for asia (unlike short white guys, I at least have a home country to go to, even though Ive only ever lived there for about a year, where Im about average sized) - the girls there aren't very pretty, and its dirt poor, but Im the same size as other males so I cannot be intimidated easily, I will be automatically respected by people, and I suppose if all the girls around me are unattractive, I wont really notice at all.

C E Clark (author) from North Texas on March 10, 2014:

EvilOne? Interesting handle. Thank you for taking time to read this article and share you own experience.

I understand what you're saying and I empathize. I know for the most part what you say is true. For some reason the shortest women and the tallest men seem to prefer each other, but have you ever watched them slow dancing? Or even dancing any kind of dance that requires contact? Like the jitterbug or cotton eyed joe, and there are many others.

Have you considered starting a dating service for short people? You might find someone for yourself and make some money too. After all, you are not alone in your frustration even though it may seem that way.

Networking with other short men and discovering how they handle that issue can be very helpful, and together in a group, you may find a great solution. Most of the short women I know are not happy to be short either -- I realize short women have the advantage socially, even over us average or tall women.

Put your math talent to work and start a dating service for short people only. No men over 5'5" and no women over 5'2". Insist they sign up in person and get measured for height and give a discount to the first hundred people who show up.

In addition to forming a membership, plan some weekly meetings that include fun things to do so these people can actually get to know each other instead of just reading a description and looking at a picture to decide if they want to meet.

Have some competitions with cool prizes (not expensive, but cool) for the winners. Competitions that will break the ice and get people communicating and laughing. You can do it. Attitude is everything.

EvilOne on March 08, 2014:

Height really is the only thing that matters if you are a below average height male, or from a race that is below average as a norm.

I stand 5'2, so I know exactly what Im talking about.

Studies show that males who are 2 standard deviations below the norm have twice the suicide rate as males 2 standard deviations above the norm.

Also, the couples where the male is shorter than the female average out to only 65% of the time of male taller/female shorter (100%). And this is a biased source that only looked at formed couples - Id bet when you take the whole population into account, its worse.

Frankly, Ive given up on life. Im smart enough to use math and make a living, but I don't care to be humiliated on the social or dating scene anymore.

C E Clark (author) from North Texas on February 14, 2014:

Tall fellow, thank you for stopping by and commenting on this article.

This is actually a report on research that has been done, which I pointed out in this article. It's not a theory, it's a report on studies that have been done and I've posted my references.

So while what you say makes good sense, and is very probably what started people thinking bigger or taller is better, it isn't necessarily what keeps that belief alive.

People may understand and believe exactly what you have stated in your comments if you were to ask them, however when it comes to opinions and attitudes, they are often heavily influenced by their subconscious mind. What people say or think they believe may not play out in their actions. People may have certain attitudes and beliefs and not even know it because those attitudes and beliefs are hidden in their subconscious.

I doubt voters consciously choose to vote for the taller candidate in presidential elections, yet that is how many people end up voting or the taller candidate would not win. Since 1900 the taller candidate for the U.S. presidency has always won.

Employers/hiring managers more often than not, according to studies, choose the taller applicant for their job openings. I doubt very much if this is a conscious decision in most cases. Sometimes height may matter, like in playing basketball, but as you say, nowadays size and brawn are rarely needed for most jobs. So it is a subconscious belief that many people have that taller equals smarter, and that influences their decisions in many areas, not just in choosing an employee.

Just as it is easy to look at presidential elections over the years and see whether the tallest candidate won, so it is possible to look at the employment records of various companies who are willing to cooperate and see how tall the candidates were for various jobs and which of them was hired.

Your comments make sense, but in practice a surprising number of people do not use logic -- not even the men. ;)

Tall fellow on February 11, 2014:

I believe tallness as an advantage is diminishing over time as we move from a competitive to a cooperative culture. Being big and strong was great when the bottom line was a physical challenge. Now the bottom line is how many people you can get to work and make decisions together.

I think the theory needs refinement because it is not simple height equals success but rather being the tallest of the group equals leadership being success. Not being accepted as the group due to standoffish feelings equals failure.

I do believe you are right about setting the shorter peoples's fear at ease, however being creatures of learning by examples means that taller people would tend to develop standoffish traits due to seeing that behaviour as normal in others.

Just my two or three cents.

C E Clark (author) from North Texas on November 30, 2013:

Thank you for commenting Per Nor. Agree that these are superficial characteristics that really mean very little regarding intelligence and talent, but societal traditions dictate that the man should be taller and the boss should look a certain way.

Even in the animal kingdom animals try to make themselves look bigger than they are to seem fiercer and more formidable, and I guess that is what people want in a boss, a husband, or even just an ordinary employee.

Like it or not, even though it may not seem logical overall, taller has the advantage where men are concerned, and in some situations that is true for women as well.

Per Nor on November 29, 2013:

Straight goods:

Basically a manager/boss/ceo should be tall, it just seems natural, people don't want to be bossed around by a short manager, seems like a kid is telling em what to do! lol

As for relationships, it only seems natural for a male to be taller than the female, it's comfort, females like to feel protected, and a taller male will help them feel that way. It's the same as a male having to be older than the female, mature/proven male for the younger looking female.

These are just common thoughts though imo, but obviously these are not carved in stone as there exceptions to the height "rule"!

ULTIMATELY for the workforce or relationships, height/gender/colour/weight of a person shouldn't matter, it should be who has the right qualifications and character to get the job done! and or make you happy. :)

C E Clark (author) from North Texas on August 23, 2013:

TXSasquatch, you may note that I didn't suggest you shave your beard or mustache. Only that you show these people you are not a threat. As for the little guys, I think pretty much everything bothers the ones who let their shortness be an issue. Even strong women are often perceived as a threat.

Well Sir, I'm a proud Yankee. Been here north of Dallas for several years, but I will never get used to the awful heat. I know people who live in Houston and things they have told me about Houston are the reason I have come to believe it is very different from DFW.

Sounds like you have conquered the problem. Sometimes other people's fears are about them, not about you, even though they may attempt in their own minds at least, to transfer their fear to you or something else.

I think your size would still give you the advantage most of the time if competing for a job or for a woman. The whole world doesn't love anybody, so there is bound to be the odd person here and there who is a bit standoffish. I agree -- you seem like a very nice fellow! :)