Here is a brief exercise that I used in teaching nonverbal communication and that I rewrote for a textbook in nonverbal that I’m in the process of writing. Here I use it as an introduction to the discussion of height but it can also be used with perception, stereotypes, and media influences, for example. You can adjust it in any way you’d like for your own classes.
Before reading about/discussing height, try your hand at estimating the heights of famous people that you’ve probably read about, heard about, and perhaps seen in photographs and film portrayals, but not face-to-face. Estimate their heights (in feet and inches) simply on the basis of the image you have of these people.
1. Baby Face Nelson (bank robber and murderer in the 1930s) __________.
2. Ludwig Van Beethoven (influential German composer) __________.
3. Bonnie Parker (gangster of the 1920s and 1930s, part of the Barrow Gang) __________.
4. Buckminister Fuller (scientist, credited with inventing the geodesic dome) __________.
5. Clyde Barrow (gangster of the 1920s and 1930s, leader of the Barrow Gang) __________.
6. Mahatma Gandhi (Indian political leader whose civil disobedience led to India’s independence from British rule) __________.
7. James Madison (fourth President of the US, largely credited with writing the Constitution _______.
8. Joan of Arc (military leader, burned for heresy at 19, and declared a Saint) __________.
9. T. E. Lawrence [of Arabia] (adventurer and British Army officer) __________.
10. Pablo Picasso (influential Spanish artist) __________.
This was designed to see if you would overestimate the heights of a good majority of these people. Fame seems to be associated with height and so most people would think these people were taller than they really were. The specific heights are as follows: Baby Face Nelson: 5’5”; Ludwig Van Beethoven 5’6”; Bonnie Parker: 4’10”; Buckminister Fuller: 5’2”; Clyde Barrow: 5’7”; Mahatma Gandhi: 5’3”; James Madison, 5’4”; Joan of Arc: 4’11”; T. E. Lawrence: 5’5”; Picasso: 5’4”;