Mark Zuckerberg Booster Seat: How Psychology Backs Sitting Tall
Alleged not-lizard person and not-presidential hopeful Mark Zuckerberg spent five hours on Monday testifying before the Senate Commerce and Judiciary committees about a little problem he’s having with his day job. The billionaire Facebook CEO was asked by predominantly old, Facebook-illiterate people about the company’s involvement in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Russian election interference, and how he plans to protect user’s data. During the grilling session, Zuckerberg was sitting on an extra-big cushion while still looking like the most uncomfortable person alive.
This overstuffed seat likely wasn’t there just so Zuck’s hiney could pretend it was back in Silicon Valley. Studies show that sitting tall gives you a personal boost and earns you the respect of others — you know, stuff that’s helpful when you’re explaining how your platform let 87 million people’s data get harvested by a political consulting firm.
Let’s zoom in:
There is the booster seat. Zuckerberg is 5 feet 7 inches tall, and the internet’s been speculating this cushion is about four inches tall. That makes a big difference when you’re being stared down by Senator Dianne Feinstein, because appearing tall brings you certain advantages in the world. Taller people make more money, are rated higher in work performance, and are viewed as more effective leaders. A taller stature is linked to increased social status across cultures, which researchers hypothesize has an evolutionary origin: If you were a taller caveman, you were probably better at taking down megafauna.
“When humans evolved as a species and still lived in the jungles or on the plain, they ascribed leader-like qualities to tall people because they thought they would be better able to protect them,” Timothy Judge, Ph.D., a University of Flordia management professor who studies height advantages said in a statement in 2003. “Although that was thousands of years ago, evolutionary psychologists would argue that some of those old patterns still operate in our perceptions today.”
Sitting straight in that booster seat likely gave Zuckerberg some psychological advantages as well: Certain strong body postures, or “power poses,” have been shown to boost our sense of confidence. Studies demonstrate that when a person sits with their back straight and their chest out, they report feeling more confident. Slouching, meanwhile, tends to make people doubt themselves.
Word isn’t out yet on whether Zuckerberg is using a booster again during today’s meeting with the House Energy and Commerce Committee — but if he does, it’ll probably help him even if the internet dunks on it.