People who are shorter than average do indeed feel weaker and inferior to taller people, a new study conducted by researchers at Oxford University reveals.
What they found was depressing. As Professor Daniel Freeman told the Guardian that our hunch was that the experience (of being small) would cause people to view themselves more negatively, reducing their sense of status and self-esteem, and triggering a sense of vulnerability.
In collaboration with computer scientists, the researchers used virtual reality to send 60 participants on simulated subway rides.
They took the journey twice-once at a tall height and once 10" shorter.
The results were dramatic: when they felt smaller, the participants reported increased feelings of inferiority, weakness, and incompetence. And this explained why they were also more likely to experience paranoid thoughts: for example, that someone in the carriage was being hostile or trying to upset them by staring.
Freeman said that paranoia is rooted in a sense of inferiority. In situations that make us feel especially small and unconfident our sense of vulnerability can increase, making it more likely that we'll overestimate the danger facing us from other people.
One possible suggestion from this research is that a way of combating paranoia is to make people feel taller than they really are.