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Controversial Study Claims Tall Men Are Smarter

By Walter Armstrong

Men who stand 5 foot 9 or taller are smarter than their shorter peers, according to a controversial new study by two Princeton economics professors.

Personal observation and experience do not necessarily support this finding, of course. For every brilliant Abe Lincoln (6'4"), there's an equally tall fellow who couldn’t think his way out of a paper bag. And for every not-so-smart man standing at 5’2”, there’s a Napoleon strategizing to conquer the world.

Not to mention Bill Gates standing at a modest 5’8”.

Nevertheless, the researchers stand by their findings, offering a mountain of statistical data, including two British studies that followed children born in 1958 and 1970 through adulthood, as well as one U.S study on height and occupational choice, to support their claim.

To be fair, the researchers did not set out to equate height with intelligence. Instead, they were testing the conventional assumption that tall men do better not because they have any natural talent but because of cultural biases, sexual stereotypes and psychological adaptations that discriminate against shorter men.

In other words, tall men do not make, say, great leaders. Rather, it's society that selects height as a qualification for male leadership and then confers crowns and titles on tall guys. This hypothesis would explain why other research has shown that tall men have more status, are more likely to be CEOs of major corporations, attract more sexual partners, and are basically more blessed with all the finer things in life.

Not so, says the new study. According to the Princeton profs, tall men make themselves into great leaders. By looking at males from birth through middle age, the researchers said they traced a consistent pattern of "smartness" long before the dudes entered the working world.

"As early as age three—before schooling has had a chance to play a role—and throughout childhood, taller children perform significantly better on cognitive tests," they wrote in a paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research. "As adults, taller individuals are more likely to select into higher paying occupations that require...greater intelligence, for which they earn handsome returns."

Of course, when the National Organization of Short-Statured Adults (NOSSA) got word of this biology-is-destiny report, they slammed it as "heightism" at its worst. "If a similar study made similar conclusions about any other minority group, there would be fierce outrage from those groups and sympathy from many who are not in those groups," said Secretary Steven Goldsmith.

NOSSA defines "short stature" for men as under 5'7" and for women as under 5'2". The Princeton profs who authored the study are both women who stand—you guessed it!—a well-above-average 5 feet 8.

Editor’s note: Here’s another question we hope is getting asked in the Ivy halls of Princeton, NJ: Is this study really something that Princeton wants its name attached to?