WELLNESS
10/19/2011 03:42 pm ET Updated Dec 19, 2011

Why We Prefer Tall Politicians

U.S. President Barack Obama is reportedly around 6-foot-1-inch tall. And British Prime Minister David Cameron is also said to be just over 6 feet tall.

Apparently, we're not opposed to having political leaders on the tall side. And a new study shows that our penchant for the more vertically inclined might have an evolutionary basis.

The research, published in the journal Social Science Quarterly, shows that the preference could be rooted in our inner ancient caveman -- we tend to admire and prefer traits that would've made good leaders back in the hunting-and-gathering days.

"Some traits and instincts that may have been acquired through evolution continue to manifest themselves in modern life, seemingly irrationally," study researcher Gregg R. Murray, of Texas Tech University, said in a statement. "A near universal fear of snakes and a preference for unhealthy fatty foods likely evolved from when snakes were a common threat and caloric intake was uncertain. We believe similar traits exist in politics."

For the study, researchers had 467 U.S. university students describe and then sketch out a figure that is representative of a "typical citizen" and an "ideal national leader." Researchers found that 64 percent of the students drew the "ideal national leader" taller than the "typical citizen."

Then, researchers had the students answer questions about their own leadership skills, as well as to consider how height might factor in to attitudes about running for political office. They found that there was a strong association between the student's actual height and their perceived leadership skills, as well as their interest in running for office.

A study published a couple of years ago also suggests that taller people earn more money (with being at least 6-feet tall increasing annual income by $1,000) than their 2-inch-shorter counterparts, LiveScience reported.

To see the heights of great political leaders both past and present, click here for the Guardian's compilation.

And check out this slideshow of the heights of the most recent U.S. presidents:

PHOTO GALLERY
Presidential Heights