Knapen, J. E., Blaker, N. M., & Van Vugt, M. (2018). The Napoleon complex: When shorter men take more. Psychological Science, 1-11. DOI: 10.1177/0956797618760196

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Inspired by an evolutionary psychological perspective on the Napoleon complex, we hypothesize that shorter males


are more likely to show indirect aggression in resource competitions with taller males. Three studies provide support


for our interpretation of the Napoleon complex. Our pilot study shows that men (but not women) keep more resources


for themselves when they feel small. When paired with a taller male opponent (Study 1), shorter men keep more


resources to themselves in a game in which they have all the power (Dictator) versus a game in which the opponent


also has some power (Ultimatum). Furthermore, shorter men are not more likely to show direct, physical aggression


toward a taller opponent (Study 2). As predicted by the Napoleon complex, we conclude that (relatively) shorter


men show greater behavioral flexibility in securing resources when presented with cues that they are physically less


competitive. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.



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