A note from the authors:
the following is a draft proposal written as partial fulfillment of a course taken at Miami University. the authors would like to make it abundantly clear that the following is a proposal, offered for public viewing by our professor as part of the project requirement. a link to our final report can be found at http://jrscience.wcp.miamioh.edu/Research/HumanNatureProgArticles/dontwantnoshortshortmanFI.html.
additionally, this "research" was assigned and conducted when both of us were sophomores at university. we are in no way experts on the topic. most important, we have no control over the content submitted to the message board. we hope that people would use the opportunity to discuss matters related to human height variation and not resort to using the forum to provoke violence and perpetuate oppressions. we encourage you to read our final proposal and the resulting messages. and, finally, we encourage further dialogue both on and off the forum.
thank you.DONT WANT NO SHORT SHORT MAN!!: Human Height Variation
We believe that, at least in this society, taller people are generally given more respect, are thought of as more attractive and intelligent, and command more respect than shorter people. Biology also has said that it is better to be taller. Bigger is indeed better! There are various factors affecting peoples heights. The ultimate size and shape that a child attains as an adult is the result of a continuous interaction between the genetical and environmental influences during the whole period of growth (Eveleth, 176). The most obvious factor affecting height is heredity. Another factor which is attributed to height variation is ethnic origin. For example, there is evidence that the closer or further away one is from the equator affects body size (Molnar, 137). Other factors such as nutrition, climate, and disease also contribute to growth variation.
It is difficult, however, to sort out the genetic influences from the environment even though most growth differences appear to be environmental.... Because of a populations history of enduring marginal diets for a many generations, it is possible that there has been natural selection for individuals who can best subsist under conditions and may adapt by slower, prolonged, growth (Molnar, 163).
It seems to make sense both biologically and socially
to be taller. Throughout evolution, the human species has
been getting taller. Granted, this fact is due to spinal
columns becoming more erect. But, perhaps humans associate
greater height with being better because higher
intelligence, as was height, a result of evolution.
According to Jim Foleys Hominid Species
(www.massey.ac.nz/~i75202/lecture8/docs.htm) the oldest
known hominid species was the Ardipithecus ramidus. They
lived 4.4 million years ago and measured 4 tall. The
Australopithecus afarensis lived 3.9-3.0 million years ago
and were 36-5 tall. Also, in this species, men were
significantly taller than women. Homo habilis who lived
2.4-1.5 million years ago averaged 5 tall. Finally, Homo
sapiens neanderthanlensis men who lived 230,000-30,000 years
ago measured 56.
There are biological reasons why it is better to be
taller. For instance, shorter women tend to have children
with lower birth weights. Also, in the case of extreme
shortness such as dwarfism, health is a frequent topic of
discussion at local, regional, and national meetings.
Achondroplastic dwarfs commonly experience orthopedic
problems, including bowleg deformity and spinal problems...
On the average, males tend to be larger than females,
and in most societies, men hold the power. Height is
therefore associated with power. Accordingly, because women
are shorter, they are seen as inferior and are therefore not
given the power. The Perceptual and Motor Skills journal
performed a study showing that the four great U.S.
presidents (as listed in a Murray-Blessing poll) were
significantly taller than the four considered failures.
According to Little People in America by Joan Ablon,
Americans tend to vote for taller political candidates.
Height has also been named as near top of the list in
traits people value when choosing a mate (Ablon, 27). In
our society, many men and women still hold to the
traditional ideals that men should be dominant and
aggressive, and women should be passive and unaggressive.
These people (assuming theyre heterosexual) would tend to
look for a mate with the according height; men look for
women who are shorter than them because society says they
should be more powerful than their mate. Height
demonstrates this, and vice-versa with women (we do not
claim, of course, that these are necessarily the conscious
thoughts people have, but they can hold true nonetheless).
This is an interesting aspect of height, because though
society says height is good as far as power, respect,
intelligence, etc., society says that women should be
shorter for their male counterparts. Once again, society
tells women that their access to power is and should be
Secord and Jourard performed a study on male attitudes
toward body size. Their studies showed that body
characteristics pertaining to masculinity is related to
the size of body parts. Because masculinity was desired,
large body size was therefore also the ideal. The presence
or absence of large size resulted in positive or negative
feelings about the self. Obviously, large size was
correlated with positive feelings, vice-versa for small
size. Other studies have corroborated these findings
There have been studies showing that height can affect
socioeconomic status, social mobility, and employment; and
vice versa. For instance, in British adults, manual and
non-manual classes have a height difference of 3 cm in men
and 2 cm in women (Eveleth & Tanner, 199). Also, according
to Phyllis Eveleth and James Tanner, children from families
belonging to the high or middle socio-economic groups in
nearly all countries are on average larger in body size than
their coevals in the lower economic groups (Eveleth &
Tanner, 198). Once again according to Ablon, Americans tend
to hire and give better pay to taller men because they
perceive those who are taller as being more intelligent,
trustworthy and worthy of respect.
One final approach to looking at positive and negative
societal correlations with height are idioms. Common phrases
such as looking up to someone, holding in high regard,
big man on campus, etc. are all positives traits and
expressions in our society. On the other hand, looking
down on someone, talking down, possessing
short-comings, etc. are all negatives traits whose origins
are associated with height.
All the aspects of height we have discussed here can be
looked at evolutionarily and societally. If height yields
power, money and status, then it makes sense that the trait
which causes a person to receive these rewards would be
passed on evolutionarily.
We want to perform a survey using college-aged students as our sample. The survey will consist of the following questions:
1)Male or female?
3)Have you ever dated someone shorter than yourself?
4)Would you ever date someone shorter than yourself?
5)If two candidates for a job had exactly the same
qualifications (assuming the job had no built in advantages
or requirements for size), do you think the 6 person would
be given it or the 5 6 person?
6)If you had the choice, would you be taller, shorter or the
same (indicate amount of change if applicable)? Why?
7)Do you believe society favors height? If so, how?
8)Do you believe it is better biologically to be taller?
We will analyze our survey to see whether or not it
supports our theory that society values height and devalues
a lack thereof, and whether or not this phenomenon has a
Ablon, Joan. Little People In America: The Social
Dimensions of Dwarfism. New York: Praeger Publishers,
Eveleth, Phyllis B. & Tanner, James M. Worldwide Variation
in Human Growth. Second Edition. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1990.
Molnar, Stephen. Human Variation: Races, Tyupes, and
Ethnic Groups. Third Edition. New Jersey: Prentice
Foley, Jim. (www.massey.ac.nz/~i75202/lecture8/docs.htm)
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