How Powerful Is a Power Pose?

 What the heck is a power pose, and can one really change your hormones?

Lisa B. Marshall,
September 23, 2015

How powerful is your power pose, and how long does your super-human feeling last? A listener recently asked that question, after listening to my podcast, How Power Poses Can Build Confidence. Harvard Professor Dr. Amy Cuddy’s research shows that certain “power poses” affect people’s hormones, making them feel more powerful and take more risks.

During an interview with Inc. Magazine, Dr. Cuddy directly answered the question about how long the Power Pose effects lasted:

Inc: How long does the effect of power posing last? Can it get you through a sales meeting? A morning? A whole day?

Cuddy: That is an empirical question we will be trying to unravel. At this point, we can say pretty comfortably that the initial effects seem to last 15 or 30 minutes. I think the more interesting question is whether or how it becomes self-reinforcing. You pose powerfully; you perform better; you feel more confident and powerful; then you perform even better. At the same time, people respond to that confidence and performance boost and give you feedback that further elevates your feelings of confidence and power.

In answering this listener’s question I did a quick Google search to find this article, which I had read before. Interestingly, a new result popped up in Google that got my attention.

In May of 2015, Psychological Science included an article from a group of researchers who tried to replicate Amy Cuddy's Power Pose work. What was interesting to me is that the participants in the new study reported feeling more powerful, but when researchers tested their hormones and tested them for willingness to take risks (they played a gambling game and a math task), those feelings had no impact on the assessed behavior or body chemistry.

I wonder how this will impact Amy Cuddy's work. The differences between the two Power Pose studies were weighed by Ars Technica, suggesting reasons why the results were different, and why the good feelings didn’t translate into braver actions or higher hormones. Though the population tested was larger, and the second study tried hard to compensate for researcher bias, they also limited human interaction between the researchers and the participants. Did this affect the outcome? Did informing the participants what the study was about subtly bias the responses? Also noteworthy is that the studies were performed in different countries. Could there be a cultural context in response to power poses? 

These are all valuable questions that need researching. The bottom line, however, is that in both cases, the participants felt more powerful. As Dr. Cuddy says, such feelings are self-reinforcing. When you feel more powerful and more confident, you will present yourself better, and people will perceive you more positively, further strengthening your self-esteem. And this is always a good thing.

This is Lisa B. Marshall helping you to lead and influence.  If you'd like to learn more about compelling communication, I invite you to read my bestselling books, Smart Talk and Ace Your Interview, and listen to my other podcast, Smart Talk. As always, your success is my business

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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