Do I like him, or is he just tall?
I find myself asking this more often than I’d care to admit, but I’m not alone. There’s a scientific reason behind why women tend to be attracted to taller men.
Why Taller Is Hotter
According to a 2013 study, “men liked being taller than their partners, but they didn’t care about the height difference as much as women did.” Out of the 650 college students who participated in the study, the average man preferred a woman three inches shorter than him, and the average woman preferred a man eight inches taller than her.
There are a few reasons behind this phenomenon. John Malouff, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology at the University of New England in Australia, writes, “One theory is that for evolutionary reasons women unconsciously prefer tall men because these men tend to be more successful in physical altercations with other men. That theory would apply to humans a dominance perspective similar to that experts hold regarding gorillas and many other animals.”
“The idea,” Malouff continues, “from evolutionary psychology, is this: Modern women tend to have genes that propel them, consciously or not, to favor tall men. That occurs because women in the past who had this preference tended more than other women to produce children who survived to reproduce. Were the tall men of yesteryear able to obtain more food? Able to better protect a woman and children? Could height have indicated health and intellect? We know that in children proper nutrition makes a big difference for height, health, and intellectual development. The evidence is clear in poor countries where some children come close to starving.”
Looking up to someone literally may translate in the unconscious brain to looking up to a person figuratively.
Malouff adds, “Another possibility is that women favor tallness in men for psychosocial reasons. Looking up to someone literally may translate in the unconscious brain to looking up to a person figuratively. Also, tall men may give women a sense of being protected by a more powerful person. Studies show that tall men are seen as leaders and are elected to office more often than shorter men who run against them. I would guess that as a group they make more money (even putting aside players in the National Basketball Association!).”
In short (pun very much intended), women tend to associate height with masculinity in a similar way they associate athleticism with masculinity. There’s something hot behind a guy who towers over you because you feel protected.
Being Tall Isn’t a Character Trait
Now that we’ve acknowledged why we think tall guys are hotter, it’s time to address the more problematic aspects of this phenomenon. Have you ever met a tall guy who considers his height a personality trait? It’s annoying AF, and we often let them get away with bad behavior because of it.
We see this in phrases like “every inch above six feet is a free red flag,” and it further proves that we associate height with attractiveness. This is another example of the halo effect, which means we tend to view attractive people as morally good. This makes us give a more attractive person the benefit of the doubt and prevents us from seeing red flags that we’d probably notice or take more seriously if he weren’t so good-looking.
Ladies, don’t fall for this and let a guy get away with toxic behavior because he’s tall. I don’t care if he’s six foot, five inches – you deserve someone who treats you well.
Is There Hope for Shorter Guys?
This might seem like a nail in the coffin for shorter guys (for reference, the height of the average American man is five foot, nine inches), but that’s not necessarily true. Sure, some women will refuse to date a guy who isn’t above six feet, but those women tend to be shallow and more interested in optics than happiness. When a woman is looking for a serious relationship, she cares more about a guy’s character and how he treats her than she does about his height.
Women tend to be attracted to men who are confident and classically handsome.
This isn’t to say that height doesn’t matter, for most women prefer for their man to be taller than them. For example, I’m on the smaller side (five foot, four inches), and though I prefer a taller guy, it usually doesn’t matter because I can wear high heels around most guys and still be shorter than them. However, I’ve also found myself caring less about height as I’ve gotten older.
Furthermore, women tend to be attracted to men who are confident and classically handsome. For example, Zac Efron is five foot, eight inches, and he doesn’t let that stop him from being one of the hottest guys ever.
We can blame evolutionary psychology for our love for taller men, which makes sense when you think of how women have a biological desire to be protected. Though science is in favor of taller men, women can be attracted to shorter guys if they’re kind, confident, and handsome (I never said we weren’t a little superficial), and most guys can live up to these expectations. When in doubt, just remember Zac Efron.
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