Britain’s Oxford University recently conducted a study which could explain the Napoleon complex or the meaning of Randy Newman’s song “Short People”. According to the study published Wednesday by the journal Psychiatry Research, short people are mistrustful of others and prone to paranoia.
Researchers from Britain’s Oxford University used virtual reality (VR) technology to decrease the height of 60 adult women who were traveling on a computer-simulated train. The volunteers who were prone to having “mistrustful thoughts” experienced the same journey for a second time at their normal height.
What’s interesting about the recruitment process for the study is that the researches recruited those who had paranoid thinking in the past month, also those people with a severe mental illness or substance dependency were excluded. But they did allow subjects who had been diagnosed or treated for other mental health problems, 15 participants in total.
The results of the study indicated that most participants reported negative feelings, such as being incompetent, unlikeable or inferior when they were height-reduced.
The researchers added that when in the lower height phase of the experiment, the participants also experienced increased levels of mistrust, fear and paranoia.
They were more likely to think someone in the virtual train carriage was deliberately staring at them, had bad intentions towards them or was trying to harm them, the study discovered.
This is while the other virtual passengers in the carriage were programmed to be neutral and not do anything to spark feelings of fear or suspect.
“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,” said Professor Daniel Freeman who led the research.
“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,” he added.
Freeman also said that the study provides a key insight into paranoia as it shows that people’s excessive mistrust of others directly stems from their own negative feelings about themselves.
“The important treatment implication… is that if we help people to feel more self-confident then they will be less mistrustful,” he noted.
So, not to call out the Oxford educated researchers, but how about next time recruit people without pre-existing mental health issues and those who have not experienced paranoia in the last 30 days. While they’re at it, throw some men into the mix, because men tend to make a bigger deal about their height.