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Master Thesis Jentl Wijnen


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Master Thesis: Height and decision making: Do taller people make more self-assertive choices?

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Master Thesis Jentl Wijnen

  1. 1. 2012Height and Decision makingDo taller people make more self-assertive choices? Jentl Wijnen 1
  2. 2. EXECUTIVE SUMMARYThe effects of height as well as choice behavior are searched thoroughly in existing literature.However a combination of the domain of height and choice behavior remains unexplored.Throughout history height has been universally prized and linked with ability. Animals alreadyused height as an index for power and strength. Height was found an indicator of power,dominance and independence to others (Freedman, 1979). Height is associated with differentpersonality traits throughout history. In evolutionary terms taller men have better geneticqualities and were more likely to have at least one biological child compared to shorter men(Pawlowski, Dunbar and Lipowicz, 2000). It is found that feeling tall boosts self-esteem (Hall,2006) and power (Judge and Cable, 2004). Being confident about ourselves and feeling powerfulis also visible in the product choices we make. When people have more self-esteem and feelpowerful they are more likely to act self-assertive. Self-assertive choice behavior is measured bychoosing extreme over compromise options, risk over safe options, non default over status quooptions and enriched over all-average options. Self-expressive options represent theunconventional, non default options and are chosen by minority of consumers. A study aboutperceived beauty showed that people who feel more beautiful are more likely to choose self-assertive options, extreme options over compromise options, enriched options over all-averageoptions and non-default options over status quo options since beauty breeds self-esteem (Gorlin,Jiang, Xu and Dhar, 2011).This research paper is using perceived height where the paper of Gorlin, Jiang, Xu and Dhar isusing perceived beauty (2011). Furthermore, choosing risk over safe options is added as ameasurement of self-assertive choice behavior and power is added as a mediator together withself-esteem compared to the paper of Gorlin et al. In this research it is tested if perception ofheight is influencing consumer choice behavior. Perceived tallness is expected to lead to apreference of extreme over compromise choices, risk over safe choices, non default over statusquo options and enriched over all-average options. It is further expected that this relation ismediated by a level of self-esteem and power. Making consumers feel taller can provide themwith the power and confidence to resolve tradeoffs and make self-assertive choices.Manipulation of height is done in a survey whereas the research of Gorlin et al. (2011) used anexperiment to boost perception of beauty. Furthermore this research is conducted in theNetherlands and therefore mostly using Dutch respondents.The sample consists of 236 respondents who successfully participated in the study. Respondentsranged from 17 to 81. Demographics were equally divided to build op validity and reliability ofthis research. In the first choice tasks choosing extreme over compromise options is measured 2
  3. 3. by three questions. Also choosing risk over safe options is measured by three questions in thethird choice task. In the third task choosing non default over status quo options is measuredwith one question. Finally choosing enriched over all-average options is measured by onequestion in the last task. Separate multiple regressions have been performed for the differentchoice tasks. Respectively power and self-esteem were added to the model to test for possiblemediation in the relation between perceived height and making self-assertive choices.It was expected that perceived tallness is increasing self-assertive behavior with respect todifferent choice tasks. On the contrary is was expected that perceived shortness is decreasingself-assertive behavior with respect to different choice tasks. Eventually, it turned out that withrespect to choice tasks of compromise versus extreme options, perceived shortness isdecreasing self-assertive behavior. Perceived shortness lowers self-esteem and power whichbreeds the preference for compromise options. However no strong evidence was found thatperceived tallness increases power and self-esteem which is making people in particular morelikely to choose the extreme option, it is considered an important relation to bear in mind. It wasfurther found that perceived tallness is leading to more risk choices with respect to a safe versusrisky choices. Power and self-esteem were not supported as mediating variable in this relation.Finally it was found that higher perception of height is leading to a higher feeling of power andself-esteem which makes people choose non default options over the status quo options.Furthermore it was found that males are in particular more likely to go for extreme optionswhereas females are in particular more likely to pick enriched options. Also it was found thatfemales tend to perceive a higher amount of power and self-esteem compared to males,controlled for actual height.The aim of this research was to give a general indication on how perception of height behaves inthe choice domain. This research does involve some limitations which have to be taken intoaccount when reading the conclusions and future research should strive to examine differentchoice tasks separately to give better insides. However it is believed that this paper can act as asuccessful guidance for future research in which underlying constructs can be researched morethoroughly, since it is revealed that perception of height is an predictor of different behaviors inchoice sets. Though the manipulation of height is not present during the whole survey it isbelieved valid conclusions are drawn which are valuable for future research and actualmarketing practice. Marketers should take in account the effect of perception of height regardingconsiderations sets that have compromise versus extreme choices, safe versus risk choices,status quo versus non default choices and all-average versus enriched choices. 3