Watkins CD, Fraccaro PJ, Smith FG, Vukovic J, Feinberg DR, DeBruine LM & Jones BC (2010). Taller men are less sensitive to cues of dominance in other men. Behavioral Ecology, 21(5): 943-947. doi: 10.1093/beheco/arq091

Male dominance rank, physical strength, indices of reproductive success, and indices of reproductive potential are correlated with masculine characteristics in many animal species, including humans. Accordingly, men generally perceive masculinized versions of men’s faces and voices to be more dominant than feminized versions. Less dominant men incur greater costs when they incorrectly perceive the dominance of rivals. Consequently, it may be adaptive for less dominant men to be particularly sensitive to cues of dominance in other men. Since height is a reliable index of men’s dominance, we investigated the relationship between own height and men’s sensitivity to masculine characteristics when judging the dominance of other men’s faces and voices. Although men generally perceived masculinized faces and voices to be more dominant than feminized versions, this effect of masculinity on dominance perceptions was significantly greater among shorter men than among taller men. These findings suggest that differences among men in the potential costs of incorrectly perceiving the dominance of rivals have shaped systematic variation in men’s perceptions of the dominance of potential rivals.

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