Terror of the Short King: The Napoleon Complex As Defined by Science

They might be small in stature, but those little bodies are overflowing with psychopathy, narcissism and Machiavellianism
Terror of the Short King: The Napoleon Complex As Defined by Science

Despite the recent rebrand from Napoleon complex to short king, it would seem that the anger of the smallest men among us has remained unchanged — and very much Napoleon-esque.

At least, that’s what the findings of a recent study suggest. Researchers surveyed 367 men and women about their “dark triad” traits — psychopathy, narcissism and Machiavellianism — as well as their height and ambitions to be taller. Psychopathy was defined as impulsivity, a lack of empathy and disregard for rules, whereas narcissism was defined as a need for admiration and general self-obsession. Likewise, Machiavellianism was more about skirting morals and manipulating people to get ahead.

The results revealed that shorter people tended to display more dark triad characteristics, “suggesting that when people cannot be physically formidable, they may then be psychologically formidable instead,” the study authors wrote. While this was true for both men and women, it manifested in different ways. For instance, shorter men were more aggressive and narcissistic, but shorter women were more prone to deception and manipulation. 

That said, “those who were satisfied with their height were less narcissistic and less Machiavellian,” the researchers noted. Essentially, when vertically-challenged men accepted their plight, they transformed emotionally from tiny dictators to diminutive royalty. 

“This leads us to believe that the behavioral syndromes of the Dark Triad traits may be part of a suite of psychological systems designed by natural selection to better enable those of shorter stature a way to still compete in life’s great challenge,” the researchers concluded. 

In other words, becoming a raging narcissist because you cannot reach the top shelf might be an adaptive response. Otherwise, life could definitely be too short.

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