Want To Look Taller? Carry a Gun

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April 12 2012 3:41 PM

Want To Look Taller? Carry a Gun

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A new study out of UCLA say holding a gun makes men look taller. A member of a criminal gang holds a gun in Medellin, Antioquia department, Colombia, taken on January 21, 2010.

Photo by RAUL ARBOLEDA/AFP/Getty Images

Maybe the line, "Big man with a gun in his hand" has some validity after all.

A study at UCLA revealed that people perceive a man to be taller and more muscular when he is toting a gun, more so than if he is holding a power drill or other object. 

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Participants in the study, looking at photos of men, were asked to estimate the size and muscularity of each subject. Researchers discovered that men holding a .357 caliber handgun were thought to be more that 17 percent taller on average than those grasping a caulking gun.

Why the vertical distortion? Funded by the U.S. Air Force, and part of a larger project aimed at better understanding human threat assessment, the study points to our the "fight or flight" instinct, a primitive trait that, despite our complex evolution, is still a fundamental driving force in snap decisions.

Further work in the area could help those in the military and law enforcement more accurately size up threats in rapidly evolving situations.

Now we know why James Bond always looked taller in a tux than he did in bed...

Video produced by Paca Thomas.

Ben Johnson is the producer of Marketplace Tech from American Public Media.