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Lead Your Team Leadership

Power Makes People Feel Taller

tape measure art

Wielding some workplace power apparently does more than just make employees walk a little taller around the office. New research shows it actually makes them think they're taller.

The study, led by a Cornell University researcher, used different manipulations of power and measures of perceived physical height to discover that employees literally perceived themselves as measuring a little taller when they occupied a more powerful position.

This is the first research showing there is a physical experience that comes with being powerful, said Jack Goncalo, associate professor of organizational behavior at Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations. "Although a great deal of research has shown that physically imposing individuals are more likely to acquire power, this work is the first to show that the powerful may actually feel taller than they are," Goncalo writes in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science.

The research begs a number of follow-up questions, Goncalo said, including whether short people attempt to capture power by physically elevating themselves above others and whether it would be possible to psychologically empower people by giving them an office on the top floor.

The research was based on three experiments of 266 U.S. men and women.

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who spent 10 years working as a newspaper reporter before working in public relations. You can follow him on Twitter @cbrooks76.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer who has nearly 15 years' experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.