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ScienceShot: Want to Feel Taller? Become the Boss

12 January 2012 11:00 am
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U.S. White House

French president Nicolas Sarkozy (right) is only 5'5'' (1.65 meters), but he might not even be aware of it (although his raised heels speak otherwise). That's because power makes people feel taller than they really are, according to a new study. Researchers asked 49 volunteers to write about a time when they were in a position where they held authority over others, while another 49 were told to write about being in a submissive position. Then the researchers had the participants create avatars for themselves in a video game. Those who had been primed to think of themselves as powerful made taller avatars, whereas the underlings made smaller ones, the researchers report in Psychological Science this month. This tendency for powerful people to think of themselves as physically large might provide an insight into why, in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill 2 years ago, BP executives repeatedly referred to the Gulf Coast victims as "small people," the authors suggest.

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