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Physical Handicaps Make Men Feel Smaller

Update Date: Aug 08, 2013 07:14 PM EDT

Having a physical handicap may make men feel smaller, new research suggests.

Besides underestimating their own size, being handicapped may also make men overestimate an opponent's size, according to researchers.

In an experiment participants who were tied down in a chair imagined an angry man in a picture as being taller than when they made the same guess while sitting down unrestrained.

In another experiment, participants were asked to state their own height based on visual marks on a wall.  Researchers found that participants who were handicapped significantly underestimated their own height.

The study ruled out the effect of anxiety of being tied up by repeating the experiments on people who stood on a teetering balance board.  They found that participants who were incapacitated by standing on the balancing board also imagined the angry face in the picture as belonging to a taller, more muscular person.

"Men's experience of their bodies' physical capacities seems to be automatically processed with an eye toward potential conflicts with others," lead researcher Daniel Fessler from the University of California, Los Angeles said in a news release.

Researchers aid all the participants in the study were young men.  They say the next step is to see if the latest findings apply to a wider variety of people in other social contexts, as well as pictures of faces depicting emotions other than anger.

The findings are published in the journal PLOS ONE.

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