Why voters tend to choose taller leaders

Voters see tall politicians as better suited for leadership, according to a new study of how people visualise their leaders.

Dr Gregg Murray from Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, was intrigued by a previous finding that the taller of the Republican and Democrat candidates emerged victorious in 58 per cent of US presidential elections between 1789 and 2008.

So, in a study published in the journal Social Science Quarterly, he and his colleagues asked 467 US student volunteers to depict to describe and draw their "ideal national leader" alongside a "typical citizen". Almost two-thirds (64 per cent) of participants drew a leader who were taller than their average citizen. The leaders were on average 12 per cent taller.

"Our ancestors lived in groups that were constantly engaged in conflicts that were resolved through physical violence," Dr Gregg Murray told the Guardian. "If you are in a group and the enemy hordes are coming over the hill, what you want them to see is the big person out front so they know they face a tough battle."

The Guardian report also quoted Chartered Psychologist Dr Richard Kwiatkowsi, a senior lecturer in organisational psychology at Cranfield University:

"Clearly there are some innate biological explanations for how we behave, but the evolutionary psychology perspective should not be overemphasised. At least post-Enlightenment one would hope that our ability to reason and actively evaluate arguments also plays at least as significant a role."