Shorter men with unconditional power are more aggressive toward taller men

New research has found evidence to support the so-called Napoleon complex, the popular belief that short men compensate for their height disadvantage by displaying dominant behavior.

In the study, which was published in the journal Psychological Science, 206 male participants competed in two types of economic games. In the dictator game, one player had unconditional power over the division of a small sum of money. In the ultimatum game, on the other hand, the player’s division of the money could be rejected and incite retaliation.

In each session, two male participants were briefly introduced as each other’s opponent before being led off to separate cubicles.

The researchers found that shorter men kept more resources for themselves in the dictator game and but they only kept more resources in the ultimatum game if their opponent was not taller than average.

The participants were also given the opportunity to assign their opponent a certain amount of hot sauce to drink, a measure of physically aggressive behavior. But height had no effect, suggesting that shorter men only engage in indirect forms of aggression against taller opponents.

“In summary, our results are among the first to show that height differences matter in intrasexual competitions between men. Consistent with predictions from sexual selection theory, and in line with the Napoleon complex, our results showed that short men kept more resources in competitive interactions, using height cues to assess the appropriateness of different behavioral tactics to take these resources from their male rivals,” the researchers concluded.

The study, “The Napoleon Complex: When Shorter Men Take More“, was authored by Jill E. P. Knapen, Nancy M. Blaker, and Mark Van Vugt.