One cannot argue that being tall comes with a lot of advantages as is obvious in our world today. But, are tall people smarter? Having a tall stature means that you will receive a more positive social perception.
Tall people appear more physically attractive than shorter people. Tall people have the potential to become physically stronger than shorter people. They are less likely to be bullied. On top of that, scientists say that tall people earn more money, and as a result, tall people are more successful in life.
A few theories were proposed by researchers that help to explain the reason behind tall people’s relative success. According to research, social discrimination is not the only reason for the income disparity between tall and short people. Another theory is that tall people are smarter.
But is there any truth to this argument? If so, are we to consider every tall person as more intelligent? It’s not easy to provide a direct answer to these questions, so we need to take a look at the studies to gain an understanding of the topic.
Taller Children Start To Show Higher Cognitive Ability from As Early As Age 3
A paper written by Princeton University’s Anne Case and Christina Paxson, and published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, says that from as early as 3 years old, taller children remarkably outperform shorter ones on tests that had to do with cognitive ability.
They based their findings on two British studies and one U.S. study. The first British study examined children born in 1958, and the other examined children born in 1970. Both studies followed the lives of the children through adulthood. The U.S. study focused on height and occupation choice.
The researchers, Case and Paxson went on to emphasize the importance of nutrition in the early stages of life to future cognitive ability. Their paper supported early studies that found that nutrition played an essential role in predicting height and intelligence.
According to them, prenatal and postnatal nutrition up to age 3 are periods vital for determining height and cognitive ability. They believe it is because growth is more rapid during this period than at any other time in human life.
There Exists a Small Correlation between Height and Intelligence
Another study from the University of Edinburgh found that taller people may have a higher IQ. Before now, studies had been conducted using twins and family members, and it was found that there is a genetic correlation between height and IQ.
But this time, researchers from Edinburgh University conducted tests using DNA markers in over 6,800 unrelated males and females to test the association. They used genetic data of people collected by the Scottish Family Health Study between 2006 and 2011.
The tests measured their linguistic abilities, reaction times, and power of recall to determine their IQ levels. They found that on average, those that were shorter were a little less smart. The result of the tests was that there is a small correlation between height and intelligence, and so, taller people are likely to be smarter.
According to the researchers, even though they found a moderate but statistically significant genetic link between height and IQ, they couldn’t give a clear explanation for it. They decided that genetics could be accountable for 70% of the connection that exists between height and intelligence, while environmental factors could be to blame for the remaining 30%.
More Findings on the Correlation between Height and IQ
In 2014, a study was published in Behavior Genetics, and in that study, it was mentioned that a positive correlation exists between greater height and higher intelligence. The study was premised on the findings from previous observational studies.
According to the study, evidence from previous studies that utilized IQ-type tests suggests that higher cognitive performance is associated with better health and lower risk of mortality. And that greater height is associated with lower health risks such as stroke, coronary heart disease, accidents, and suicide.
This means that both greater height and higher intelligence are connected to better health. And if so, there has to be a connection between being tall and being intelligent.
To test the hypothesis, research was conducted where more than 24,000 adults between ages 35 and 65 were examined over the course of five years.
To test their general intelligence, four cognitive tests were conducted where the participants’ processing speed, verbal declarative memory, executive function, and vocabulary were measured. Their heights were also measured. The researchers took into consideration such factors as gender and age before analyzing the results.
In the end, they discovered a moderate and statistically significant genetic connection between height and general intelligence. They concluded that the majority of the phenotypic correlation between height and intelligence is a result of shared genetic influences.
An Attempt to Explain the Correlation between Height and Intelligence
Over time, different studies have been conducted regarding this topic and many of them found evidence to support the existence of the correlation but none have been able to clearly explain the reason for it. Nevertheless, one possible explanation for it could be that tall and smart people often choose other tall and smart people to mate with.
As suggested by Dr. Matthew Keller, who had conducted studies on the matter, some genes influence height and intelligence. He also suggested that tall, intelligent people are more likely to look for other tall, intelligent people to mate with.
This cycle then causes the genes responsible for intelligence and height to become associated with one another. Keller agrees that there are a lot of exceptions but based on statistics, this happens more than you think.
Don’t get it misunderstood, all these researchers are not suggesting that their findings apply to every tall person on earth. They are only stating the result on average. Being tall doesn’t ultimately guarantee that you will be intelligent. There’s a difference between correlation and causation. Because there is a connection between both traits doesn’t mean that one is a cause for the other.
The evidence researchers found was not big enough to support the claim that all tall people are smarter than their shorter counterparts. The IQ disparity they found was too low, and so it was not enough for them to place height as a cause of intelligence even though there’s a connection.
More so, there isn’t yet a clear explanation for this connection. This means that there is more to intelligence than just being tall. For this reason, we find that despite the likelihood of tall people being smarter, in some cases, a shorter person might turn out to be smarter than a taller person.