Short people may be disadvantaged on the basketball court, in the workplace, and when trying to see over large crowds, but they just might be quicker in sensing the world around them—because, well, their signals don’t have to travel as far to get to their brains.
In effect, this means that tall people are living in the past, if only by a tenth of a second. This is all according to neuroscientist David Eagleman, whose essay entitled “Brain Time” suggests that “if the brain wants to get events correct timewise, it may have only one choice: wait for the slowest information to arrive.”
See, before the brain can process external events, it must receive and synchronize all incoming sensory data—from the eyes, ears, tongue, and skin. But these messages come at different times and speeds. For example, if someone touches your nose and your foot at the same time, you register the touches simultaneously, even though the signals had to travel farther from your foot to your brain than they did from your nose.
As such, according to Eagleman, the brain may wait for the last signal to arrive before it processes what a group of signals mean. Because sensory signals need more time to travel the longer limbs of tall people, he says, their brains could experience a (very very small) processing delay.
The average tall person, therefore, “will live his sensory life on a teeny delay.” Though it’s still not enough to make short people superior at basketball. With the occasional exception.
Discoblog: The Nose Knows: Men’s Sweat Smells Like Cheese, Women’s Like Onions
Image: Flickr / howieluvzus