Tallness, An Unconcealed Asset?

In the developed world a person’s height is often seen as a measure of their group status. That is, a taller person is shown more deference than a shorter person. Of course, this is only for starters. Many short people develop the drive to end up on top of the heap, but tallness gives one a head start.

The up and downs of tallness and perceptions has engaged Unduragga et al and set them wondering if the perceived advantages were just a western peccadillo, so they hiked into the Bolivian Amazon to interview the Tsimané and report their findings in PLoS ONE (1).

We pampered developed peoples were the control group as we automatically associate intelligence, affluence and dominance with tallness, according to the literature. So what do the Tsimané think about that?

The experiment consisted of showing photos of the long and the short in pairs to 80 Tsimané men and women, asking them probing questions and then getting them to rate the most capable, strong, or caring of the pair. The age range of the raters was 16 to 80 and the rated were pairs of kids and pairs of adults of both sexes.

The ratings were slightly in favor of the tall, especially for the opinion with regard to strength. Dominance, social concern, and knowledge were closer run races, but the bias was stronger in favor of tallness in children than in adults.

It may be that adults perceive taller children as more advanced in developmental skills, or are healthier, but these preferences diminish when adults are considered. So it seems that tallness is not the be all and end all in the Amazon and I guess Napoleon would have suggested anywhere.

  1. http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0035391

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