Houston, Texas (CBS HOUSTON) — Although similarity is cited by many psychologists to be dominant in human attraction, the height of potential partners is especially important to a majority of women.

A two-part study conducted by the University of North Texas and Rice University finds that despite an “increasing equality in belief and in practice between the sexes,” height is still very important in dating decisions. More than half (55 percent) of women in one part of the study, and almost half in the other (48.9 percent), said they only wanted to date men who are taller than themselves.

“Evolutionary psychology theory argues that ‘similarity is overwhelmingly the rule in human mating,'” Michael Emerson, the Allyn and Gladys Cline Professor of Sociology, co-director of Rice’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research and the study’s co-author, told Phys.org. “However, our study suggests that for physical features such as height, similarity is not the dominant rule, especially with females.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the average U.S. male’s height is 69.3 inches (5 feet 7 inches tall) and average female height is 63.8 inches (5 feet 3 inches) in height.

The dominant reasons cited by women for preferring taller partners included issues of femininity and protection.

“As the girl, I like to feel delicate and secure at the same time,” said a woman in the study who is 5 feet 3 inches tall. “Something just feels weird in thinking about looking ‘down’ into my man’s eyes. There is also something to be said about being able to wear shoes with high heels and still being shorter. I also want to be able to hug him with my arms reaching up and around his neck.”

Men were more likely to note physical compatibility, although lower percentages (25.5 percent between the two surveys) of men said they would only date women who are shorter than themselves.

The study, “Does Height Matter? An Examination of Height Preferences in Romantic Coupling” will be published in an upcoming edition of the Journal of Family Issues.

Professor of sociology at the University of North Texas and the study’s lead author, George Yancey, told Phys.org that height preferences between men and women are likely a result of societal expectations and gender stereotypes. Yancey notes there is a social expectation that being tall is a personal asset for men but a negative physical aspect for women.

“The masculine ability to offer physical protection is clearly connected to the gender stereotype of men as protectors,” he said. “And in a society that encourages men to be dominant and women to be submissive, having the image of tall men hovering over short women reinforces this value.”

A separate study recently conducted by Oxford University researchers finds that shorter people are more prone to negative feelings of inferiority, mistrust and incompetence. The “virtual height” study showed that people who view the world from a shorter perspective are more likely to have these feelings of paranoia and inferiority.

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