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01/13/00- Updated 11:59 AM ET


Jan. 13, 2000

It's true: Women prefer the tall guys

By Tim Friend, USA TODAY

Does size matter?

Studies show that women favor taller men. Do you believe taller is better?


Latest results

 Discussion: Do tall men have the upper hand?
Female humans appear to be no different from any other species of animal when it comesto mate selection. Size - in this case height - counts.

That women prefer taller men is nothing new. Short guys, unless they're rich, powerful orfamous, have come by this knowledge the hard way. And women all over the world openlyprofess desires for height in personal ads.

The question is, why? Is it the actual inches that get the female flushing, or does heightrepresent something else, such as wealth or education?

Research in today's Nature by scientists in Poland and England suggests heightitself plays a key role in turning a female's head. (If you are a fish, depending on yourspecies, a particularly tall dorsal fin or a long tail might do the trick.)

Some experts, including James Gould of Princeton University, say there's good evidencethat the preference for height by female humans, and long dorsal fins or tails by fish, ishard-wired in the brain and translates to good health.

"When height is an indicator of health, this is not surprising, and if females areprogrammed to look for health, they would end up with taller males," Gould says."It's entirely plausible this is true."

The study's cold statistics show that taller men are more likely to have children thanshorter men and are more likely to be married. Conversely, childless bachelors aresignificantly shorter than married men, says Robin I. M. Dunbar of the University ofLiverpool.

The more successful breeders were 1.2 inches taller on average than childless men, andthose who were married were an inch taller on average than bachelors.

Dunbar and colleagues from the University of Wroclaw in Poland studied 3,200 men, rangingin age from their 20s to 50s, whose average height was 5 feet 6 inches. Because otherstudies suggest tall men have better education and are more likely to have family wealth(the silver-spoon variety, not earned by themselves), the team controlled for educationand still found that height races the pulse.

Mate selection, which is controlled by females in most species, has never been a kindprocess. The female, no matter what species, is basically interested in good genes and awell-provisioned nest. But within this female drive there is room for exceptions or truetrade-offs. Money and power can usually supplant height in female preferences the way rockbeats scissors. After all, Al Pacino is only 5-foot-7, and Henry Kissinger is 5-foot-9.

"Taller isn't always better," says Bobbi Low of the University of Michigan andauthor of Why Sex Matters. "The bottom line is, men want healthy young womenand women want healthy men with great resource potential."

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