If two minutes of “power posing” is all it takes to make yourself not only feel more powerful, but actually be more powerful – how would you change your life to benefit from this power booster?
Before we dig into the research behind this, let’s first take a minute right now to see what your body is telling you about yourself. Are you hunching over and crossing your legs, or are you leaning back and spreading your arms out?
Your body language (aka nonverbals) can tell others a lot about you – your feelings, emotions and thoughts. However, it is just as important to remember that our body language greatly influences how we think and feel about ourselves.
Researchers at Harvard, MIT and Berkeley (Carney, Cuddy and Yap, 2010) set out to investigate this very phenomenon in the context of power and dominance. Though we already knew that both animals and humans express power with certain types of postures, these researchers wanted to find out whether adopting these “power postures” actually increase power?
To better understand this, let’s take a look at the nonverbal postures common between both animals and humans. High power postures are about opening up, expanding into more space, while low power poses is about shrinking down, taking up less space. Generally, powerful people are more willing to take on risk and exhibit greater assertiveness, confidence and optimism. Physiologically, they have higher levels of testosterone (“dominance” hormone) and lower levels of cortisol (stress hormone) compared to less powerful people.
In an ingenious experiment, these researchers brought people into their lab and had them adopt, for just two minutes, either high-power poses or low-power poses. They then collected a sample of their saliva and gave them an opportunity to gamble.
They found that high-power posers have a higher risk tolerance with 86% willing to gamble compared to 60% of lower-power posers. For testosterone levels, high-power posers experienced a 20% increase compared to a 10% decrease in low-power posers. As for cortisol levels, high-power posers experienced a 25% decrease compared to a 15% increase in low-power posers. In essence, two minutes of posing was enough to cause significant hormonal changes in your body.
At the same time, as much as expansive power poses are linked to beneficial effects like increased confidence and resilience from pain and stress, these poses have also been linked to dishonest behaviours such as lying and cheating (Carney et al., 2013). So it’s important to remember to use your power responsibly!
So how could power posing change your life? In situations where increased confidence and assertiveness is an advantage power poses can be helpful. Maybe just before an upcoming job interview or an important presentation at work, try spending just two minutes in a private place to do some power poses. It’ll truly change your mind.
Please share with us different situations in your life that you used the 2 minute power pose to hack your mind and unlock your power within.
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For more information on this fascinating research, please take a look at Amy Cuddy’s TEDTalk.
Carney, D. R., Cuddy, A. J. C., & Yap, A. J. (2010). Power positing: Brief nonverbal displays affect neuroendocrine levels and risk tolerance. Psychological Science, 21, 1363-1368.
Yap, A. J.,Wazlawek, A. S., Lucas, B. J., Cuddy, A. J. C., & Carney, D. R. (2013). The ergonomics of dishonesty: The effect of incidental posture on stealing, cheating, and traffic violations. Psychological Science, 24, 2281-2289.