High and Mighty: Height Increases Authority in Professional Refereeing

Gert Stulp, Abraham Buunk, Simon Verhulst, Thomas Pollet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)
4 Downloads (Pure)


Throughout the animal kingdom, larger males are more likely to attain social dominance. Several lines of evidence suggest that this relationship extends to humans, as height is positively related to dominance, status and authority. We hypothesized that height is also a determinant of authority in professional refereeing. According to the International Football Association Board, FIFA, football (“soccer”) referees have full authority to enforce the laws of the game and should use their body language to show authority and to help control the match. We show that height is indeed positively related to authority status: referees were taller than their assistants (who merely have an advisory role) in both a national (French League) and an international (World Cup 2010) tournament. Furthermore, using data from the German League, we found that height was positively associated with authoritative behavior. Taller referees were better able to maintain control of the game by giving fewer fouls, thereby increasing the “flow of the game”. Referee height was also positively associated with perceived referee competence, as taller referees were assigned to matches in which the visiting team had a higher ranking. Thus, height appears to be positively related to authority in professional refereeing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)147470491201000
JournalEvolutionary Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2012


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