The Power Pose to “Fake it till you make it”


Dana R Carney ( University of California) together with others has carried out some interesting research into the effects of posture. We all know that in the animal kingdom, animals will alter their posture to make themselves bigger and appear stronger. A peacock and his tail feathers is one such example as is the chimpanzee puffing up his chest to assert himself.

However, would the same apply to us humans? Could we change our posture in such a way that would increase our perceived power and position? Dana Carney, a psychologist, set out to prove this scientifically. This has been much documented elsewhere but I came across her research paper yesterday. The findings were interesting.

There are two key hormones which reflects the difference between the powerful and the powerless; testosterone and cortisol. Your testosterone levels will rise during the anticipation of a competition or when one is won. Conversely when lost it will drop. Testosterone levels will also be higher when asserting dominance or position. The other hormone that is linked to people of power is cortisol (the stress hormone). People, who have a low level of dominance, tend to have high levels of cortisol which in turn can lead to bad health, low functioning of the immune system and memory loss to mention but a few.

So if a powerful individual tends to have a higher level of testosterone and a lower level of cortisol, could we then put ourselves in a position whereby the we actually increase our testosterone levels to appear more powerful. After all an increase in power cause individuals to feel more in control and optimistic which being more goal orientated and ready for action. Dr Carney asked volunteers to either hold an open or closed position for a two minutes. An open position is one which is expansive so one would occupy more space (outstretched limbs, hands behind the hand, hands on hips etc) – just like the peacock. A closed position then, is one whereby the occupied space is minimised (folder arms, hunched shoulders etc) and so projection of low power. Saliva samples were then taken to test cortisol and testosterone levels.

The participants were then asked to carry out a series of tests. The results showed that those who had taken up an open position (Power Pose) had a:

  • higher levels of testosterone compared to those with low power poses
  • lower level of cortisol
  • lower level of risk adversity
  • Higher feeling of being more “powerful” and “in charge”

As was suggesting in the report the 2 minute power pose was “enough to significantly alter the physiological, mental, and feeling statues of [the] participants. The implication so f these results for everyday life are substantial”.

There are plenty of occasions when we want to improve our confidence that we have in ourselves such as doing a presentation, interview, taking risks, that awkward conversation etc. Adopting this pose then could help us to fake it till we make it.

Not just a way to cope with our environment and circumstances but rather a way to influence them. Use the Power Pose and let others read your body language.

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