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  • Writer's pictureAnna Conrad

Do You Feel Taller Than You Are?


Most of my coaching sessions and leadership programs are still done virtually, and when people meet me in person for the first time, they almost always exclaim, "I didn’t realize you were so small.” (I am 5’). I am always surprised by this comment because I never feel small.


And now I know why.


I came across a study recently that revealed that people who are confident and powerful feel taller than they are. Our language already reveals this truth about our psychology. Take these expressions:

  • "He's the big man on this project."

  • "We look up to her."

  • "Lady Gaga is huge." (even though she is about my size).

  • "He puts her on a pedestal."

It's not hard to see the strong association between size and power embedded in how we talk about the relations between people.


The reason why is almost too obvious to bother stating: larger people often have more power. Our parents, teachers, and authority figures are taller than us as children. In adult life, taller people earn higher salaries, are more likely to be in higher-status jobs, and are likelier to end up as United States President. And men are taller than women and have historically enjoyed more power.


Researchers in the study measured participants' heights, then paired them up. The leadership and employee roles were assigned randomly. The 'leader' was told they would have absolute power during the task and that the employee must accept this. This ensured that one person in each pair felt more powerful. Afterward, participants filled in another questionnaire as part of what they were told was a different task. Hidden in this, they were asked their height again. So now the experimenters had two measures of height: one before the power manipulation and one after. Then the experiment was stopped before the promised role-play could be carried out.


The results showed that both groups averaged about 66 inches in height before the manipulation. But after the manipulation, those in the lower-power condition reckoned themselves to be, on average, 65.80 inches tall. In comparison, those in the high-power condition had grown to 67.01 inches.


This shows that the connection between mind and body goes both ways concerning power. We already know that people who stand in 'power poses' feel more, and this study shows us the connection the other way: that feeling more powerful changes our perception of our bodies.


Contact me if you would like the citation for the study at Anna@ILSInt.com.


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