Short man syndrome is a real thing and the hot tempers of small men may actually be evolutionarily hard-wired into them to make up for their lack of inches, scientists believe.
Polish researchers investigating the so-called Napoleon complex — where vertically challenged men are angrier and more confrontational than their lengthier peers — found the myth was grounded in truth.
Short men have often sought power, from the reportedly 5’ 2” Napoleon through to the UK’s current diminutive Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who stands just 5’ 5” tall.
Emmanuel Macron, Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelenskyy are all world leaders who are reported to be 5 foot 7 inches tall, significantly below the average height for a man in the modern world.
Scientists investigating short man syndrome surveyed 367 people and looked for evidence of psychopathy, narcissism and Machiavellianism which make up the Dark Triad personality traits and are associated with more confrontational behaviour.
Link between rowdy behaviour and height only seen in men
Data revealed that shorter men are more likely to behave in an antagonistic manner towards others.
The researchers theorise that when a person is not physically formidable and does not have an intimidating presence then they have to impose themselves in other ways.
This, they say, has led to men employing this tactic to “acquire resources and impress romantic partners”, in what modern pop culture calls the “short king” phenomenon.
“Shorter women,” the scientists add, “can use deception to appear more desirable or to gain protection and resources”.
But in the study, published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, the link between rowdy behaviour and height was only seen for men, and not for women.
'They may become psychologically formidable instead'
Lead author Monika Kozłowska, from the University of Wrocław in Poland, said: “When people cannot be physically formidable, they may become psychologically formidable instead.
“Appearing more powerful may in turn make other people perceive them as taller than they really are.”
The team looked at the impact of actual height and of how a person felt about their height and found that both played a role.
They believe shorter people are not only angry that they are short, but are evolutionarily wired to be angry to compensate for being disadvantaged by being small.
“Our study provides the first assessment (we know of) of how the Dark Triad traits relate to height and height attitudes,” the scientists write.
“We showed that not only are people high on the Dark Triad traits less satisfied with their height, but this may be because they are actually shorter.
“This leads us to believe that the behavioural syndromes of the Dark Triad traits may be part of a suite of psychological systems designed by natural selection to better enable those of shorter stature a way to still compete in life's great challenges.”