In a study in the journal Psychiatry Research, scientists showed that making a person's virtual height lower than it actually is can make them feel worse about themselves and more fearful that others are trying to harm them.
''Height is taken to convey authority and we feel taller when we feel more powerful,'' said Daniel Freeman of Oxford University, who led the study. He explained that in this experiment, when people's height was virtually reduced, they felt inferior and this caused them to feel overly mistrustful.
Professor Freeman's team tested 60 adult women from the general population who were prone to having ''mistrustful thoughts'' and put them through a virtual experience of an underground train ride.The participants experienced the same ''journey'' twice, once at their normal height and once at a height that had been virtually reduced by about 25 centimetres.
Most participants reported negative feelings - such as feeling incompetent, unlikeable and inferior - when they were in the lower height phase of the experiment.
These negative thoughts translated into an increase in paranoia, the researchers said, including making the participants more likely to think someone in the train carriage was staring at them, had bad intentions towards them or was trying to upset them.
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