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Being Short Can Increase Feeling of Mistrust

Update Date: Jan 29, 2014 04:18 PM EST

The concept of a "short-man syndrome" revolves around that the stereotype that short men deal with height complexes that can jeopardize their mental wellbeing to a certain extent. According to a new study, being short might actually have an effect on people's wellbeing regardless of gender. The researchers reported that after creating a virtual scenario in which people were made to be shorter, feelings of mistrust heightened.

For this study, the researchers headed by professor Daniel Freeman from the University of Oxford recruited 60 female volunteers from the general population. The participants all had a history of mistrustful thought. The researchers created a virtual ride on the tube, which is the underground transportation system in Great Britain. The participants had to ride the tube twice.

The only difference between the two rides was a reduction in the participant's height by about a head, which is around 10 inches. The virtual passengers were all created to be neutral, which meant that they were not supposed to instill any feelings of fear or danger.

The researchers found that even though a lot of the participants did not consciously realize the change in height, there were a greater number of people who reported feelings of mistrust in the scenario when their heights were reduced. These feelings included feeling incompetent, inferior and dislike. These thoughts were tied to an increase in paranoia in others. The participants believed that when passengers stared at them, it was because they had bad intentions or were purposely trying to instill feelings of distress.

"Being tall is associated with greater career and relationship success. Height is taken to convey authority, and we feel taller when we feel more powerful. It is little wonder then that men and women tend to over-report their height. In this study we reduced people's height, which led to a striking consequence: people felt inferior and this caused them to feel overly mistrustful. This all happened in a virtual reality simulation but we know that people behave in VR as they do in real life," Freeman said reported by Medical Xpress.

The study was funded by the Medical Research Council and published in Psychiatry Research.

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