A new study has found that people who are shorter than average and wish to be taller tend to have “darker” traits, U.S.-based news website Psypost reported.
The research, published in Personality and Individual Differences, suggests shorter people gain traits related to the “Dark Triad” in order to attempt and offset the inadequacy they feel towards their height.
The Dark Triad is a term used to describe a trio of personality traits that have gained attention in recent years: psychopathy, narcissism, and Machiavellianism.
Psychopathy is marked by a lack of empathy and remorse, impulsivity, and a disregard for social norms. Narcissism is defined via an exaggerated sense of self-importance, entitlement, and need for constant admiration. Machiavellianism, on the other hand, refers to a propensity for manipulation, cynicism, and a lack of moral principles.
“One of the reasons these traits have become so popular to study is the contention that they might be adaptive — albeit socially undesirable — solutions to attaining status/mates/survival calibrated on both dispositional features like the ability to compete and the context one grew up in (especially) and one’s current circumstances (less so),” said Peter K. Jonason, who’s in charge of the study.
Jonason is part of the University of Padua and The Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University in Warsaw.
In the study, researchers recruited 367 adults from the U.S. The study involved participants completing a standardized questionnaire suited to study these traits, and assessed subclinical levels of psychopathy, narcissism, and Machiavellianism.
Additionally, the researchers asked participants to report their height and answer questions regarding their satisfaction with it: satisfied, or wishing they were taller.
The study findings revealed a negative correlation between both actual height and height satisfaction, and the presence of the negative traits.
In simpler terms, individuals who were shorter in height and those who desired to be taller were found to exhibit higher levels of these maleficent traits.
“Shorter people, especially those who wish they were taller, are more characterized by traits that are likely to make them show-off, be confrontational, and interested in power,” Jonason said.
The study also found that a negative correlation between height and narcissism was stronger among men, but the other traits were not correlated by gender.
“We expected these relationships to be stronger in men given evolutionary and Freudian considerations but we found only scant evidence for differentiation of these correlations by sex,” said Jonason.
Researchers attempted to give an answer as to why shorter people are more likely to develop these negative traits.
“These relationships may be best understood from an evolutionary framework, suggesting that when people cannot be physically formidable, they may then be psychologically formidable instead.”
In situations where individuals are physically smaller or weaker, they may resort to psychological tactics as a way of compensating for their physical limitations.
For instance, shorter men may attempt to assert dominance, accumulate resources, and win over romantic partners with their personality traits. Similarly, shorter women may engage in deceptive behaviors to enhance their desirability or gain protection and resources.
Such psychological maneuvers are believed to offer a survival and mating advantage, thereby offsetting the physical disadvantages posed by their size or strength.
“The most pertinent issue would be to better calibrate tests based on relative heights in one’s area. This would get a sense of the magnitude of the effect as it diverges from the local average. It is the local milieu more than national averages that will set people’s adaptive responses,” Jonason added.