It’s true: like nearly every other man out there I’d like an additional three inches.
But not where you’re thinking (come on, you were thinking that, weren’t you?).
I’m 1.73 meters tall, or around five feet eight inches in quaint Olde Worlde measurements. That means I’m short for a Caucasian male. This has many downsides.
Anthropologists have shown that in all societies across the globe people (both male and female) prefer tall men to short men. Since the advent of television, in US Presidential contests the taller guy almost always wins. In the military, overall, the taller men get more responsibility and more promotions than the shorter guys.
There is a significant financial impact: a reasonable number of studies show that a man will on average earn an additional $800 per year per additional inch of height for any given type of job. Taller men also get more promotions, which means moving up to a higher income bracket altogether.
As for romance, large-scale studies of dating sites show conclusively that women of all heights prefer prospective partners to be at least 1.83 meters, which is six feet tall in old-style measurement. So if you’re trying to meet your new life partner or even just someone for tonight, you’ll be far more likely to succeed if you are tall.
People are hardwired to defer to height, so if you’re doing anything in public you’ll have a greater chance of success the taller you are. Contemporary records indicate that George Washington was given command of the Colonial Army largely on the basis of the fact he was two meters tall, which is around six feet six inches. (By the way, we can forget about citing Napoleon as a counter-example: he was actually of average height for his time and place.)
From an evolutionary perspective this preference for height makes total sense. Tall men will tend to have a strength and reach advantage that increases their chances of being a better protector and hunter. They are more imposing so it’s easy to defer to them. Even today, when supposedly other things matter (intelligence, sense of humor, empathy) the harsh reality is that we still automatically assume taller is better because of our hardwiring.
So, if I was given the opportunity to rub a magic lamp and was granted one inches-related wish, I’d opt for the increase in height. Compared to any size increase anywhere else, that’s the one that counts for most.