Napoleon complex – Short Man Syndrome

In 2007, research by the University of Central Lancashire suggested that the Napoleon complex (described in terms of the theory that shorter men are more aggressive to dominate those who are taller than they are) is likely to be a myth.

The study discovered that short men were less likely to lose their temper than men of average height. The experiment involved subjects dueling each other with sticks, with one subject deliberately rapping the other’s knuckles. Heart monitors revealed that the taller men were more likely to lose their tempers and hit back.

University of Central Lancashire lecturer Mike Eslea commented that “when people see a short man being aggressive, they are likely to think it is due to his size, simply because that attribute is obvious and grabs their attention.”[2]

The Wessex Growth Study is a community-based longitudinal study conducted in the UK that monitored the psychological development of children from school entry to adulthood. The study was controlled for potential effects of gender and socioeconomic status, and found that “no significant differences in personality functioning or aspects of daily living were found which could be attributable to height”;[3] this functioning included generalizations associated with the Napoleon complex, such as risk-taking behaviours.[4]

Abraham Buunk, a professor at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, claimed to have found evidence of the small man syndrome. Researchers at the University found that men who were 1.63 metres (5 ft 4 in) were 50% more likely to show signs of jealousy than men who were 1.98 metres (6 ft 6 in).[1]

References for Napoleon complex

  1. Jump up to:a b Fleming, Nic (13 March 2008). “Short man syndrome is not just a tall story”The Telegraph. Retrieved 17 May 2017.
  2. Jump up to:a b “Short men ‘not more aggressive'”BBC News. 2007-03-28. Retrieved 2008-01-17.
  3. Jump up^ Ulph, F.; Betts, P; Mulligan, J; Stratford, R. J. (January 2004). “Personality functioning: the influence of stature”Archives of Disease in ChildhoodBMJ Publishing Group Ltd89 (1): 17–21. doi:10.1136/adc.2002.010694PMC 1755926Freely accessiblePMID 14709494.
  4. Jump up^ Lipman, Terri H.; Linda D. Voss (May–June 2005). “Personality Functioning: The Influence of Stature”. MCN: the American Journal of Maternal/Child NursingLippincott Williams & Wilkins30 (3): 218. doi:10.1097/00005721-200505000-00019.

Short Man Syndrome Explained

‘Short man syndrome’ is a condition in which a person has to deal with a feeling of inadequacy which can come from a lack of height – or a perceived lack of height. This is particularly common in men who gain a lot of confidence and status from physicality and who often gain pleasure from being able to feel physically imposing.

Short man syndrome is an informal term and not a medical or psychological condition and goes by other names such as ‘Napoleon complex’. Technically it is a form of inferiority complex in which the person attempts to overcompensate for their perceived shortcoming. The term is often used as a derogatory term also to describe those who are perceived as acting this way.

Short Man’s Syndrome deffinitions from

An angry male of below average height who feels it necessary to act out in an attempt to gain respect and recognition from others and compensate for his abnormally short stature. Also synonomous to little man syndrome.

by MUSOM February 22, 2005

The phenomenon of appearing overly aggressive or assertive. This may be a reaction after repeatedly suffering height discrimnation (heightism) in the workplace, in relationships with women, or elsewhere during socialisation.

by Megabone April 28, 2004

term applied to a short man whenever he is assertive or commanding. If the exact same attitude was taken by a taller man, no one would think twice.

Tall guy steps out of a new Camaro: “Hey, check out that guy with the Camaro!, that’s a sweet ride, I wonder how much he makes.”

Short guy steps out of a new Camaro: “Dude, look at that little man with the Camaro, Talk about compensation!”

Tall employer assigns difficult task: “My boss gives me hard jobs, but whatever, everyone has to work.”

Short employer assigns difficult task: “Damn, that prick loves to lord his authority over me! He has major Short Man’s Syndrome!”

by chode11 October 15, 2009

term used to dehumanize short men. On the basis of this prejudiced term, a short man isn’t allowed to do anything assertive, confident, or generally masculine without being accused of overcompensating or having short man’s syndrome.

Whereas if a taller man exhibited the same exact behavior, nobody would bat an eyelash. I rudely shoved that short guy at the bar out of my way, and he got all angry about it. Talk about short man’s syndrome!

by cosmiccountrynoir April 24, 2011

A demeaning phrases to explain the everyday behaviour or reactions of a shorter man. This circular definition is very much like the black man’s supposed “chip on the shoulder,” or a female’s “penis envy”.

It is a device to excuse discrimination by blaming the recipient of that discrimination.

– “Hey, that guy got angry when I ridiculed him for being short.”

– “He did? I guess that must be short man’s syndrome.”

by don April 30, 2004

A story made up by tall guys with small dicks who have nothing else going for them than their height. The same insecure guys will come up with stories to put down men of all shapes, sizes, looks, professions, talents, and intelligence levels in an attempt to make themselves look better, and still wonder why we women won’t go for them.

Jason: “How did that short man end up with that girl!! I have to bring it to her attention that her guy has short man’s syndrome! Also check out that fat guy with the beautiful woman; he must have fat guy’s syndrome. How about that smart guy? What a nerd! And that overly tall dude?! What a sasquatch! Don’t even get me started on redhead men!”

Jennifer: “Get a life! And grow some balls so you don’t need to put others down to feel better about yourself”

by Jenn86 May 28, 2011

  • Highly toxic degenerative complex that often affects males 5’8″ or less in stature.
  • Can have a seroiusly adverse affect on those within earshot of persons afflicted with this unfortunate condition.

Symptoms and side affects of shortmans’ syndrome can include:

  • – Snide, nasty bitchy comments and one-up-man-ship about anyone employed to work with/for the shortman
  • – Insecure behaviour, especially when others joke about small penises
  • – A fast car with a long bonnet
  • – Often seen “hanging out” at that bar, either sitting bolt upright on a bar stool or slouching in a booth, bragging loudly and buying anyone/everyone drinks and then getting really annoyed when no-one reciprocates

by Jasminenz January 06, 2008

Conclusion: Napoelon complex is a social jugement for an assertive behavior of a small male 🙂

#insecure men #clueless #little man’s syndrome #winkie #short guy #dehumanizing #height #little #man’s #napoleon #complex #tall #syndrome #twerp #big-head #workaholic #self-centered #self-deluded #ian #little #man #syndrome #lms #small man syndrome#napoleon syndrome #nashwan syndrome #short man syndrome #mini man syndrome

Deffinitions for little man syndrome

A man, small in stature, who attempts to overcome the way he believes other people perceive him (as a diminuative character) by:

  • 1) attaching himself to authority figures,
  • 2) trying to manipulate himself into positions of control,
  • 3) migrating toward positions of leadership, and
  • 4) having a fairly volatile temper.

I had a boss with little man syndrome and besides never being able to please him, he always had to prove he was better than anyone else!

by notgnostic November 08, 2006

A rare disease where someone is abnormally small and has to make up for it

by acting hard

Why are you hitting me you midget? You’ve got little man syndrome

by 9races March 27, 2016

Condition whereby undersized men compensate for their smallness by physically asserting their presence.

That Puerto Rican just freaked on me when I stepped on his puma—he’s got a badcase of little man syndrome.

by P. Chop October 15, 2003

When a man of short stature feels insecure and as a result feels the need to belittle and offend others to make himself feel proud.

When a small man (with little man syndrome) greets you with: “Oh still feeling ill? By the looks of you, its pretty obvious!” (or something similar)

by S. Ashburne February 23, 2010

When a small man feels the need to out do a normal size man in order to feel bigger then he is.

Boy Chris really has little man syndrome today. He feels he needs to drink more then everyone else.

by Blue Knight April 22, 2003

When a guy is short and has an attitude problem because he is bitter at society for looking down on short guys.

Damn, I just got rejected by the bouncer that I was a lot taller than at the bar, he must have had a bad case or little man syndrome.

by Erica April 23, 2004

person who thinks that he/she is bigger than they really are and tries to fightanyone as a result of it.

by Ian Cash December 26, 2011

Aggression of small males

Why are small males aggressive?

Lesley J Morrell,* Jan Lindström, and Graeme D Ruxton
Division of Environmental and Evolutionary Biology, Institute of Biomedical and Life Sciences, University of Glasgow, Graham Kerr Building, Glasgow G12 8QQ, UK
*Author and address for correspondence: Lesley J. Morrell, School of Biology, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK (
Keywords: fighting, aggression, Napoleon complex, game theory
Read full article at:

Aggression is ubiquitous in the animal kingdom, whenever the interests of individuals conflict. In contests between animals, the larger opponent is often victorious. However, counter intuitively, an individual that has little chance of winning (generally smaller individuals) sometimes initiates contests.

A number of hypotheses have been put forward to explain this behaviour, including the ‘desperado effect’ according to which, the likely losers initiate aggression due to lack of alternative options. An alternative explanation suggested recently is that likely losers attack due to an error in perception: they mistakenly perceive their chances of winning as being greater than they are. We show that explaining the apparently maladaptive aggression initiated by the likely loser can be explained on purely economic grounds, without requiring either the desperado effect or perception errors.

Using a game-theoretical model, we show that if smaller individuals can accurately assess their chance of winning, if this chance is less than, but close to, a half, and if resources are scarce (or the contested resource is of relatively low value), they are predicted to be as aggressive as their larger opponents. In addition, when resources are abundant, and small individuals have some chance of winning, they may be more aggressive than their larger opponents, as it may benefit larger individuals to avoid the costs of fighting and seek alternative uncontested resources.

A High Aggression Strategy for Smaller Males

Cédric Sueur, Editor
1Department of Natural Sciences, Linnaeus University, Kalmar, Sweden
2School of Biological Sciences, Monash University, Victoria, Australia
3Section of Ecology, Department of Biology, University of Turku, Turku, Finland
Institut Pluridisciplinaire Hubert Curien, France

Male-male conflict is common among animals, but questions remain as to when, how and by whom aggression should be initiated. Factors that affect agonistic strategies include residency, the value of the contested resource and the fighting ability of the two contestants.

We quantified initiation of aggression in a fish, the desert goby, Chlamydogobius eremius, by exposing nest-holding males to a male intruder. The perceived value of the resource (the nest) was manipulated by exposing half of the residents to sexually receptive females for two days before the trial. Resident male aggression, however, was unaffected by perceived mating opportunities. It was also unaffected by the absolute and relative size of the intruder.

Instead resident aggression was negatively related to resident male size. In particular, smaller residents attacked sooner and with greater intensity compared to larger residents. These results suggest that resident desert goby males used set, rather than conditional, strategies for initiating aggression. If intruders are more likely to flee than retaliate, small males may benefit from attacking intruders before these have had an opportunity to assess the resident and/or the resource.

Why are men more violent?

Dorian Furtuna, Ph.D.
Dorian Furtuna, Ph.D., is an ethologist from Moldova who studies the evolutionary roots of human aggression.
Online:Dorian Furtuna, Ph.D.
Read full article at:

In almost every society men are the ones who are overwhelmingly involved in wars, in all kinds of intergroup aggressions and intragroup homicide; they mobilize themselves in armies of violent fans, in criminal gangs, in bands of thugs, etc. These observations are as old as the world and have allowed us to create a clear distinction between male and female sexes regarding their predisposition to violence. Wars are a biosocial product of men and a field for male’s manifestation [Goldstein, 2001]. The same thing is true of crime and cruelty, which are closely linked to masculinity.

. . .

All of these anatomical, hormonal, behavioral and evolutionary factors demonstrate the biological, instinctual inclination of men to be more combative. Therefore, on an individual and social level, men are involved in acts of violence and crime. The social environment only cultivates and points out these predispositions towards fighting and aggression.

Are all short men little Napoleons? It’s often said smaller men tend to be chippy and aggressive. But what’s the scientific evidence?

  • The name of one of greatest military leaders lent to the Napoleon Complex
  • Syndrome where pint-sized men overcompensate for their lack of stature with self-importance, jealousy and aggression
  • Stalin was said to suffer from it, as did Mussolini and Attila the Hun
  • But critics say people often too quick to link personality defects to height
Short-tempered: But Napoleon was 5ft 6in tall
Short-tempered: But Napoleon was 5ft 6in tall

Napoleon Bonaparte’s legacy is immense. He reformed the Continental legal system, ensured that Europe, and most of the world, drives on the right and, until his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo 200 years ago this month, was one of the greatest military leaders in history.

The French dictator also lent his name to something less impressive — the Napoleon Complex, the syndrome where pint-sized men overcompensate for their lack of stature with blustering self-importance, jealousy and aggression.

Stalin was said to suffer from it, as did Mussolini and Attila the Hun. Some critics say it helps explain the behaviour of 5ft 5in former French president Nicolas Sarkozy.

Last month, singer Art Garfunkel reignited the debate over the Napoleon Complex by accusing his erstwhile partner Paul Simon — all 5ft 3in of him — of being a sufferer. ‘I think you’re on to something,’ Garfunkel reflected, looking back on years of in-fighting and estrangement. ‘I would say so, yes.’

So is there really such a thing as a short man syndrome? And can height really influence our pesonality?

The Napoleon Complex was identified in 1926 by the Austrian psychoanalyst Alfred Adler, who also came up with the notion of the inferiority complex, where sufferers demonstrate a lack of self-worth.

In its classic form, personified by Captain Mainwaring in Dad’s Army (who is regularly taunted as a ‘Napoleon’ by Warden Hodges), short men overcompensate for their lack of height by being extra-assertive and chippy.

The name, actually, is a bit of a misnomer. Although Napoleon is assumed to have been short, he was 5ft 6in, around average for a man in the late 18th century. The confusion arose from portraits of the dictator standing alongside unusually tall guards.

The complex has divided psychologists for more than a century. Some say it describes a real phenomenon; others believe there is no evidence it exists.

What is beyond doubt, is that short men have every reason to be fed-up with their lot. Study after study shows that tall people are wealthier, more successful at work, healthier and even enjoy better love lives than their smaller counterparts.

A 2004 study by psychologist Timothy Judge found that tall people earn more. He calculated back then that every inch of height added $789 (£505) to someone’s annual salary every year so that, on average, a worker who was 6ft earned $5,525 (£3,535) more than someone who was 5ft 5in.

When author Malcolm Gladwell polled the management of half the top U.S. companies, he found that 58 per cent of chief executives were at least 6ft tall, compared to just 14 per cent of the population.

Since 1916 — the era when our politicians have appeared on cinema screens and TV — the taller U.S. presidential candidate has won 17 times; the shorter candidate just six. Other studies have shown tall men are more likely to find a long-term partner and taller teenagers have more dates.

Short people are more likely to become crooks, they’re more likely to develop heart disease, they tend to be more unhappy and they don’t live as long. No wonder vertically challenged people feel they are getting short shrift.

In its classic form the Napoleon Complex, personified by Captain Mainwaring in Dad’s Army (pictured), short men overcompensate for their lack of height by being extra-assertive and chippy
In its classic form the Napoleon Complex, personified by Captain Mainwaring in Dad’s Army (pictured), short men overcompensate for their lack of height by being extra-assertive and chippy.

No one really knows why tall people — and particularly tall men — do so well in life. It may be partly to do with evolution. Tall men are seen by women as being healthier, fitter and stronger, looking all round the better catch.

Tall people may be more confident, safe in the knowledge they will never be overlooked. That confidence may translate into better exam results, career prospects and love lives.

But what evidence is there that these inequalities are matched by seething resentment and anger among short men? One study suggesting the short man complex is real came from Professor Abraham Buunk, of Holland’s University of Groningen.

He interviewed 100 men and 100 women in relationships and found that men around 5ft 4in tall were more likely to suffer from jealousy than those measuring 6ft 6in.

For women, the results were different: tall and short women both showed more signs of jealousy than women of average stature.

But other experiments have not found compelling evidence for a Napoleon Complex.

Psychologist Dr Glenn Wilson says: ‘For every nasty little Napoleon or Hitler, there’s an equally nasty Saddam Hussein or Colonel Gaddafi who is tall. It’s easy to think of case examples but scientific evidence is very limited.’

In 2007, researchers at the University of Central Lancashire found that tall men — not short ones — were quicker to lose their rag when provoked.

In an unusual — and slightly silly — study, men of different heights duelled with wooden sticks. In each fight, they were battling a stooge who was told to provoke a response by deliberately rapping their opponent across the knuckles.

Dr Mike Eslea, who carried out the study, showed it was the taller men who were more quick to fly off the handle. And when researchers at Southampton University compared the personality types of 48 short and 66 average height people in their late teens in 2003, they found no link between personality and height.

Critics of the theory say people are often too quick to link personality defects to height. If a 5ft 10in man is bossy or angry, no one links it to their size.

Yet when a 5ft 4in man displays the same characteristics, they are accused of overcompensating.

And there are plenty of shorter men who are easy-going and passive. Gandhi was just 5ft 3in.

There are plenty of shorter men who are easy-going and passive. Gandhi (pictured in 1940) was just 5ft 3in
There are plenty of shorter men who are easy-going and passive. Gandhi (pictured in 1940) was just 5ft 3in

If the evidence for Napoleon syndrome in men is weak, it’s virtually non-existent in women. Some studies have shown shorter women feel less confident — which helps explain why so many women feel the need to wear high heels to boost their self-esteem.

Oxford University academic Professor Daniel Freeman tested how height affects personality in 2013. He invited 60 women to take a simulated underground train journey while wearing virtual reality glasses.

The Tube trip was as realistic as possible — with noisy rumbling and swaying motion — and the carriage was populated by computer-generated people. The volunteers took two journeys — one at normal height and another with their viewpoint altered to replicate how the journey would look if they were about a head shorter.

‘It was clear that being lower made people feel less confident in themselves,’ says Prof Freeman. ‘There was an increase in feelings of inferiority. And, with this added sense of vulnerability, the participants felt more mistrustful of the people around them. This happened in a virtual-reality simulation but we know people behave in VR as they do in real life.’

The Napoleon Complex has divided psychologists for more than a century. Some say it describes a real phenomenon; others believe there is no evidence it exists.

Yet revealing that a woman feels less confident when she’s shorter doesn’t mean that she also becomes more aggressive, pompous or chippy. Women are expected to be shorter in our society.

In 97 per cent of UK couples, the man is on average five or six inches taller.

Psychologist Dr David Lewis claims to have identified a ‘Tinker Bell Complex’, named after the feisty fairy in Peter Pan. Women who are petite are often infantilised — treated like children by men, or so the theory goes. As a result, they can develop a sense of rebellion and resentment that makes them more flamboyant and ambitious.

Candidates for the Tinker Bell Complex include Lady Gaga (5ft 1in), Barbara Windsor (4ft 10in) and Lulu (5ft 1in). Unlike the Napoleon Complex, it’s not seen as a negative trait but an asset that helps them succeed.

At the other end of the scale, tall women — like tall men — seem to do better at careers and earning money. But tall people don’t get it all their own way.

They may have the money and the relationships. But according to a University of Aberdeen study, they are also more likely to be bitten by midges.

Napoleon Bonaparte and Captain Mainwaring would be no doubt be delighted to hear it.