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Power Posing May Not Be A Mood-Changing Miracle After All

New research casts doubt on the hormonal effects of a confident posture.

Power Posing May Not Be A Mood-Changing Miracle After All
[Photo: Flickr user Zach Dischner]

Do you stand up straight with your chest puffed out before a phone interview? Cross your arms and arch your shoulders back in meetings? Such power! Surely these power poses are making you a more confident, less-stressed-out worker, ready to take on the world. Right?

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Maybe not, actually. Despite widely circulated research purporting to show that power poses have hormonal and behavioral effects on us, a new study suggests that everything we thought we knew about the link between posture and mood is bogus. But don’t slouch down in your chair in disappointment just yet.

The basis for the whole power posing craze comes from studies like this 2010 paper claiming to find a link between powerful, confident postures and the levels of certain hormones in the human body. Specifically, power poses are believed to increase testosterone and decrease the stress hormone cortisol, making us all more confident, risk-taking, and stress-free employees. As a result, the act of improving our posture is said to make us seem more authoritative, make us better negotiators, and even help the salespeople among us boost sales.

But while maintaining good posture is always a healthy, advisable thing to do, it simply just may not have the chemical and behavior effects we once thought. A recent study from the University of Zurich attempted to replicate the findings of the 2010 study and had a hard time doing so.

The new study–which had a sample size four times bigger than the original and used computer-based prompts to try and correct for some potential researcher biases–actually found no hormonal changes as a result of test subjects adopting power poses.

Explains Ars Technica:

The basic methods of the study were the same. Each participant started out by providing a saliva sample. They then performed a “filler” task while in a series of two different poses, either powerful or powerless. The powerful poses took up space, like leaning back in a chair with feet up on a table or leaning across a desk. In contrast, the powerless poses were closed in, like having someone hold their hands in their lap while hunched forward. The poses were the same as in the original study but were held for three minutes instead of the original one minute.

The study also involved having subjects participate in risk-taking games and filling out questionnaires about how “powerful” they felt after engaging in these poses and activities.

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While the study didn’t detect any hormonal changes, the participants did still report feelings of enhanced power. So while the existence of a chemical change is in doubt, apparently walking around like a superhero can still have a certain psychological effect on the power poser.

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About the author

John Paul Titlow is a writer at Fast Company focused on music and technology, among other things. Find me here: Twitter: @johnpaul Instagram: @feralcatcolonist

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