Napoleon complex, or “short man syndrome”, is a pejorative slang term describing a type of psychological phenomenon which is said to exist in people, usually men, of short stature. It is characterized by overly-aggressive or domineering social behavior, and carries the implication that such behavior is compensatory for the subjects’ stature. The term is also used more generally to describe people who are driven by a perceived handicap to overcompensate in other aspects of their lives. Other names for the term include Napoleon syndrome and Short Man syndrome.

The Napoleon complex is named after Emperor Napoleon I of France. The conventional wisdom is that Napoleon compensated for his lack of height by seeking power, war and conquest. However, Napoleon’s height was actually average for his time period; the average 18th-century Frenchman stood at 5 ft 2 in (1.57 m). Historians have now suggested Napoleon was 5 ft 6 in (1.68 m) tall. Napoleon was often seen with his Imperial Guard, which contributed to the perception of his being short because the Imperial Guards were above average height. In psychology, the Napoleon complex is regarded as a derogatory social stereotype.

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