Powerful People Overestimate Their Own Height

Released: 1/16/2012 2:40 PM EST
Source Newsroom: Cornell University
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Citations Psychological Science

Newswise — ITHACA, N.Y. — Maybe the powerful really do feel bigger than the rest of us: A recent study led by a Cornell University researcher finds that the psychological experience of power makes people feel taller than they are.

“Using different manipulations of power and measures of perceived height, we found that people literally perceived themselves as taller when they occupied a more powerful position,” according to research by Jack Goncalo, associate professor of organizational behavior at Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

“Although a great deal of research has shown that physically imposing individuals are more likely to acquire power, this work is the first to show that the powerful may actually feel taller than they are,” Goncalo and co-author Michelle Duguid of Washington University write in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science.

In other words, there is actually a physical experience that goes along with feeling powerful.

Three experiments with 266 American men and women confirmed for Goncalo and Duguid that there is a relationship between feelings of power and one's self-perception of height.
Goncalo noted that the research begs a number of questions: Do short people attempt to capture power by physically elevating themselves above others? Would it be possible to psychologically empower people by giving them an office on the top floor?

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