Getting short-changed II

Timesonline has an article that points to the discrimination against short people as one of the last tolerated biases in our society. The writer argues that the reason is that the preference for the tall and statuesque is an evolutionary adaption inbred into our species.

The advantages in our society of being tall are well documented:

Research has shown that a tall, broad-shouldered man is more likely than a shorter rival to have an advantage when looking for a mate, or for employment. Research published last year from Princeton University showed that both tall men and women earn 10 per cent more than those who are 4in shorter. The chances of a man reaching the equivalent in Britain of the directors’ boardroom are 3 per cent greater if he is 6ft 2in than 5ft 10in.

What is truly discouraging for the height challenged is that the bias seems so unconscious:

Doctors Karen Dion and Ellen Berschied, from the University of Wisconsin, published a paper showing that children aged 4 to 6 asked to judge classmates’ desirability assessed it on appearance. This bias wasn’t confined to the children: it was also reflected in the teachers’ expectations of their performance. Similarly, Doctors David Landy and Harold Sigall, of the University of Rochester in the US, demonstrated that when undergraduates were asked to evaluate their colleagues’ intellectual ability and the value of their essays it was heavily biased by height and build.

This is not only a transatlantic phenomenon. As long ago as 1962, Walter Burger and Heinz Schuler of the University of Augsburg in Germany demonstrated that a tall, good-looking man was likely to be chosen for a job not just because of his ability to carry it out efficiently: he was given better ratings for friendliness, creativity and motivation.

After pointing out that height matters more to men than to women, the author throws a bone to short men: “men are lucky because women have a broad range of criteria for prospective partners. Short men can always trade off other attributes – such as wealth!”


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