Master Life Faster: Newsletter

Why Tall Men Make More Money

Posted in Newsletter by Paul Lem, M.D. on February 3, 2009

Volume 2, Issue 2
SMART: The origins of personality
SOCIAL: How to disarm beautiful women
WEALTHY: Why tall men make more money

“Personality is to a man what perfume is to a flower.”
-Charles M. Schwab

The Origins of Personality

no-two-alikeIn No Two Alike: Human Nature and Human Individuality, Judith Rich Harris seeks to answer a puzzling question: Why do identical twins have different personalities even though they grow up in the same home with the same parents? After all, their genes are the same and so is their family environment. It turns out that genetics only account for about 45 percent of the variance in personality. But what about the other 55 percent?

Personality 101

According to psychologists, the “Big Five” personality traits are Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism. By carefully reviewing the evidence from dozens of studies, Harris shows that the unexplained variance in personality is not due to parenting style, birth order, or favoritism towards a certain child.

Note that behavior is different from personality.  For example, your son will take out the garbage if you offer him $20. But no combination of parental incentives, punishment, or discipline will change his personality. I know this seems hard to believe, but it’s true. Parents have almost no influence on their child’s personality.

The definitive evidence comes from studies where identical twins were raised together, or separated at birth and raised apart. Their personalities were not more or less alike. Similarly, adopted children or step-siblings do not become more or less alike when raised in the same home by the same parents.

If personality is not shaped by home environment, then what’s left to explain the 55 percent?

Social Status

Harris proposes that our brains are wired with 3 mental systems that shape our personality above and beyond genetics:

  1. A socialization system that helps us learn societal norms and become members of a group.
  2. A relationship system that allows us to tell people apart.
  3. A status-seeking system that compares ourselves to others and helps us find a niche where we are dominant.

twin-liliesFor example, imagine identical twin girls, Mary and Jessica, attending the same high school. The girls are socialized by their peers to dress and act like teenagers. But even if they dress and act the same, the relationship system ensures that all of the students find ways to recognize Mary and Jessica as unique individuals. One day, Mary accidentally trips and falls in the cafeteria. Her pudding flies through the air and splatters a teacher in the face. Everyone laughs. From that day on, students think of Mary as the class clown. In response to the attention, Mary’s personality becomes more extraverted and agreeable.  It’s a reinforcing circle. The more extraverted and agreeable Mary becomes, the more attention she gets. In contrast, Jessica realizes she will never be as popular as Mary. So Jessica finds her niche as the twin who is quiet and studies hard.

In this way, Mary, Jessica, and the rest of us find our place in society. As Harris puts it, “No two people have the same personality. No two are alike.”


Bouchard et al. (1990) Sources of human psychological differences: The Minnesota study of twins reared apart. Science. 250: 223-228. Abstract.

Bouchard TJ, Loehlin J. (2001). Genes, evolution, and personality. Behavior Genetics. 31: 243-273. Abstract.

Turkheimer E, Waldron M. (2000). Nonshared environment: a theoretical, methodological, and quantitative review. Psychological Bulletin. 126: 78-108. Full Article.

“A man falls in love through his eyes, a woman through her ears.”
-Woodrow Wyatt

How to Disarm Beautiful Women

womanBeautiful women are used to getting their way because they know their beauty gives them high status.

At the State University of New York at Albany, researchers approached attractive and unattractive female students at the campus center and library. The students were invited to complete a short questionnaire as part of a research study. Eighty-five percent of the unattractive women agreed to participate versus 65 percent of the attractive ones. After agreeing to participate, the female subject was escorted to the faculty lounge where she was introduced to a male experimenter. Just as he was about to hand the survey to the subject, the experimenter was interrupted by a female confederate who said, “Bill, could I talk to you a minute?” The experimenter excused himself and told the subject he would be back in a second. At the far end of the room, the confederate and the experimenter kept up a conversation until the subject got up and protested at having to wait. On average, attractive women waited for 3 minutes and 21 seconds. In contrast, unattractive women waited 9 minutes and 30 seconds. That’s almost 3 times longer!

Head in the Clouds

Imagine what it’s like to be an attractive woman. Men are constantly telling you how beautiful you are. It’s hard not to get an inflated ego. That’s why pickup artists use a technique called “negging” to bring beautiful women back down to earth.

A neg is a negative remark designed to show that you’re indifferent to a woman’s beauty. Consider the following back-handed compliments:

  • “Your hair looks nice. You almost make that 80s hairstyle work.”
  • “It’s cute how your nose wiggles when you talk.”

Note that a neg is not an insult. Rather, it’s an off-hand comment made in a good-natured way. Negs should be delivered as though you were teasing a bratty little sister. For more neg ideas, check out this list:

Learn From the Master

Negs are effective as one-liners, but they can be even more effective when used as part of a pickup routine. One of the classic routines is “Beauty is common” by Neil Strauss, the seduction master himself:

Improve your chances of picking up hot women. Master the art of the neg.

Jackson DJ, Huston TL. (1975). Physical attractiveness and assertiveness. Journal of Social Psychology. 96: 79-84. Abstract.

“Tall men come down to my height when I hit ’em in the body.”
-Jack Dempsey

Why Tall Men Make More Money

big-boysOn average, tall men earn more than short men. The difference works out to about $800 per inch in annual income. It doesn’t seem fair. Why should someone who is 6’2 earn $5,600 more than someone who is 5’7?

Big Boys

It turns out it’s not adult height that matters, but rather height in adolescence. Economists Nicola Persico, Andrew Postlewaite, and Dan Silverman discovered that the men with the highest earnings were those who were tallest at age 16, not the ones who were tallest at age 30. In high school, taller boys were more likely to participate in extracurricular activities. Joining a sports team was associated with a 12 percent increase in adult wages, and joining a club was associated with a 5 percent increase.

Why do extracurricular activities lead to higher earnings later in life? The answer seems to be the effects of status on personality. Think back to your days in high school. Who had the most status? I’m guessing it was the captain of the football team, or maybe the star basketball player. These big strong kids were the kings of the school. They had the hottest girlfriends and the admiration of students and teachers.

Followers and Leaders

High status in high school leads to lasting changes in adulthood. In a study from the University of California, researchers followed the lives of early-maturing boys and late-maturing boys. At age 14, the early maturers were an average of 8 inches taller and 34 pounds heavier than the late maturers. Observers judged the early-maturing boys to be “more relaxed, more matter-of-fact and less affected in their behavior.” The small late-maturing boys were described as “eager” and “tense,” and displayed “more affected attention-seeking mannerisms.”

By the age of 33, the height differences had almost disappeared, but the personality differences remained. On average, the early maturers were only half an inch taller and 7 pounds heavier. But they scored higher for dominance, self-control, and responsibility. They were also more sociable, warm, and cooperative. In terms of career, many of the early maturers were executives or managers. In contrast, none of the late maturers had attained an important managerial position.

Discover Your Niche

It seems that tall men earn more not because they’re tall, but because they’re more likely to be good leaders. So what should you do if your kids are short? Since it’s actually status that matters and not height, help your kids find an activity where they can become the best. Maybe it’s chess, or horseback riding, or playing the saxophone. Whatever it is, remember that status is the key.

Judge TA, Cable DM. (2004). The effect of physical height on workplace success and income: Preliminary test of a theoretical model. Journal of Applied Psychology. 89: 428-441. Full Article.

Persico N, Postlewaite A, Silverman D. (2004). The effect of adolescent experience on labor market outcomes: the case of height. Journal of Political Economy. 112: 1019-1053. Full Article.

Jones MC. (1957). The later careers of boys who were early or late maturing. Child Development. 28: 113-128. Abstract.

Copyright 2009 by Paul Lem, M.D. All Rights Reserved.
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