The idea of a “power pose” rests on a simple bit of oft-repeated pop psychology: Striking a power pose—standing up straight with your hands on your hips and your legs apart—makes your body take up more space. Appearing bigger, the theory goes, can make you feel more confident and, therefore, improve your life.
And we’re not talking small victories here—for you, maybe it’s mustering up some extra confidence before a workout or warding off pre-competition jitters. Power posing can theoretically give people with “no status and no power” the ability to change the outcome of their lives, according to a hugely popular 2012 TED talk from Harvard researcher Amy Cuddy, which popularized the idea of power posing.
That sounds great, but the science behind power posing for success may not be so solid, according to new research published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.
In Cuddy’s original presentation (which you can watch here), she claims that posing confidently can up anyone’s odds of succeeding in life, even when they don’t feel confident. For example, if you’re nervous before a job interview, try hanging out in a pose that makes you feel powerful for a few minutes beforehand. Whether it’s leaning over a table with your hands firmly placed on the surface, or sitting with your feet up and arms folded behind your head, posing in a position that makes you feel powerful will boost your confidence and increase your chances of success, her theory posits.
If that works for you, great—but it’s not a surefire way to make you more successful, according to Joseph Cesario, study author and associate professor of psychology at Michigan State. Cesario is also a co-editor for the scientific journal Comprehensive Results in Social Psychology, which recently published seven studies trying to replicate the results of Cuddy’s original studies to no avail.
This isn’t good news for those who believe in the power of the pose, according to Cesario. “There is currently little reason to continue to strongly believe that holding these expansive poses will meaningfully affect people’s lives,” Cesario says, “especially the lives of the low-status or powerless people.”
One of the original power pose study authors, Dana Carney, even reviewed the new studies. Carney agreed that since she’s analyzed the new evidence she’s come to the conclusion that the power pose, while improving one’s self-regard, probably doesn’t have any real-world effects, according to MSU’s website.
“Feeling powerful may feel good, but on its own does not translate into powerful or effective behaviors,” Cesario says. “These new studies, with more total participants than nearly every other study on the topic, show—unequivocally—that power poses have no effects on any behavioral or cognitive measure.”
Sure, we’d all like to believe the idea that a power pose might actually make you more powerful—and yes, it might make some people feel like they can conquer the world. But rather than relying on that Dwayne Johnson stance before a big business deal, you might be better off hitting the gym and achieving a “dominance physique” the hard way.
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