Saturday, 9 May 2020

The Tall-Man Stereotype. Do Blind People Share it?

A great many studies support positive social perceptions of tall men and associations with independence, dominance, leadership, intelligence, academic achievements, competence, and socio-economic status. Tall men are more likely to win political elections due to presumed greater leadership skills, are seen as more attractive and preferred as mates (marry earlier, remarry more often, get more replies to so-called lonely heart advertisements).

In the current research, we aimed to examine whether blind people, who live in a culture with a strong tall-man stereotype, but are not able to see the stature of men and therefore associate it with particular, positive traits, share the positive tallness stereotype. Our goal was to compare preferences of congenitally blind and sighted individuals in the area of interpersonal attractiveness, namely in its four aspects – perceived intelligence, wealth, leadership skills and social-economic status. It was hypothesized that congenitally blind people have not developed the tall man stereotype (...).
Participants (n=77, i.e. 43 sighted and 34 congenitally blind people of whom 17 male, 17 female) were read to a short story about a fictitious person called Thomas who in one version was 1.66m tall and 1.90m in the second version. Afterwards, participants were asked to assess to what extent Thomas was intelligent, wealthy, a good leader, and how high his social status was.
In the case of intelligence, sighted participants assessed "tall Thomas" (M = 3.62) as more intelligent than "short Thomas" (M = 3.09) but no differences where found in the blind group. Sighted participants rated "tall Thomas" as wealthier (M = 3.62) than "short Thomas" (M = 2.95). Again, blind participants did not differentiate. Sighted participants also evaluated "tall Thomas" (M = 3.57) as a better leader than "short Thomas" (M = 2.73) while blind participants did not distinguish between tall and short Thomas in terms of leadership skills. Similarly, sighted people ranked the social status of "tall Thomas" higher (M = 3.57) than of "short Thomas" (M = 3) while there were no significant disprecpancies in blind participants' assessments (Stefanczyk et al., 2019).
The results of our research indicate that blind people do not associate tallness with a man’s interpersonal abilities, unlike the sighted participants, among whom we observed a pronounced, positive, height-related stereotype in the case of perceived intelligence, wealth, leadership skills and status. These findings are consistent with our hypothesis and suggest that seeing might be necessary to develop the positive stereotype of high male stature. Relatedly, the preference for tall men seems not to be a biological inclination, but rather a learned association.
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- Stefanczyk, M. M., Wernecka, N., Sorokowski, P., & Sorokowska, A. (2019). Do blind people shre the tall-man stereotype? Current Psychology, LINK
- image of tall Max von Sydow via