According to a study by British scientists at University College London, paranoia is more common in short people. They are also more likely to be mistrustful and have low self-esteem. Their sense of self-worth is tied to their height; in comparison, tall men are more confident and evidently have better success in careers and relationships.
In a paper titled “Virtual Reality Study of Paranoid Thinking in the General Population,” the scientists tested this theory by placing 60 women volunteers in a virtual reality setting, specifically on a subway train. This was predicated on the idea that people behave the same in virtual reality as they do in real life. In one setting, all volunteers were their normal height but in the second setting, their height was reduced by 10 inches. The women were not informed about their change in height. The other virtual subway riders behaved in a neutral manner that would not elicit any untoward reaction, and the women were allowed to wear headsets in both settings.
The outcome was such that the volunteers felt, with their reduced height, more mistrustful and fearful, and experienced paranoia about people staring at them. They also experienced deflated self-esteem and self worth, and felt vulnerable. The catch, however, is that all 60 volunteers had mistrustful thoughts prior to the study so it does bring up questions about the validity of the results. There have been previous studies, however, that link social status to height so further study is necessary.
Regardless, Professor Daniel Freeman, who led the study, said this outcome will be a good start for a randomized controlled study in the future. He suggests that a way to combat paranoia would be to help people feel more confident about themselves, and by doing that, one way is to make them feel like they’re taller. Taller people feel more empowered and in control.
This may explain the success of many short celebrities such as Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman, which begs the question: does being short make one want to be bigger than life, in a sense? Short celebrities seem taller on screen, which is why fans seem surprised when celebrities seem smaller or shorter in real life. For people to feel taller, they need to feel powerful or authoritative. This is key to eliminating paranoia in short people.
There is, however, a different study focused on paranoia from Newcastle University, but which focused on people who visited high-crime neighborhoods. After spending 45 minutes in this area, the participants developed paranoia and less trust, feelings similar to those who live in high-crime areas also. It is generally believed that residents who live in high-crime neighborhoods have more mistrust and paranoia than those who live in well-to-do neighborhoods.
Professor Hugh Perry, who led this particular study, says that funding studies such as these are important to help understand the underlying patterns of paranoia. This will help streamline interventions for people susceptible to paranoid thoughts, which is one aspect of schizophrenia.
The connection between short people and lower social status may not be obvious but both involve paranoia, which is common in mental illness, and the purpose of these studies is to figure out a way to combat paranoia.
By Juana Poareo