We may have to duck to get through doorways, slide out all the chairs for more legroom, and lean down to whisper to anyone for quiet communication. But there are several perks to being a tall person. We are more likely to dunk a basketball, we’re more likely to be thought attractive by the opposite sex, and, as it turns out, we’re also more likely to accurately guess distance.
Have you ever asked a tall person to see something a long way off? They tend to see better with the extra foot or two of height. You may just ask them because they can see up and over things, but they may also be better at judging distance. Tall people are better at estimating how far away they are from an object they can see. That means if you’re standing with a group of friends and you can see a building in the distance, your tall friend is more likely to accurately guess how far you are from that building than your shorter friends.
Spatial perception develops as we grow, and taller people spend more time growing and learning to assess distance. Taller people take up more space, vertically and holistically, so they tend to be more aware of space and develop a better picture of how far they are from objects around them. Think of it this way – it’s probably pretty easy for you to look at something and know instantly you won’t fit in it, like a childrens’ playhouse. Taller people are doing that all day long, even with average-sized rooms, doorways, cars, and other structures.
While it makes some intuitive sense that taller people can see higher and farther, so they can determine distance better standing, there is also reason to believe that tall people can gauge distance well even when they are sitting. A recent study shows that it isn’t just the current height that gives them the advantage. Even when tall people remove the height by sitting they are still a better judge of distance than other people. The study also found that tall people did better at estimating locations in darkness or dim lighting. It is thought that because there is more distance between their eye level and the ground they have developed more spatial awareness under all circumstances.
There are some drawbacks to being tall, of course. Everyone assumes you play basketball, or teases you about having to duck everywhere you go. And of course – finding a shirt that isn’t either too short or too wide for your long and tall frame. Well, we can’t make everyone stop asking you about basketball, but we CAN provide you with a long, slim, well-fitting tee to wear while you’re accurately judging distance for your shorter friends. At least you can look great doing it.