Motivation and emotion/Book/2014/Power posing and self-confidence
How can "power posing" affect self-confidence?
"Change your posture for two minutes… It could significantly change the way your life unfolds." - Amy Cuddy
Have you ever wondered if there is a life hack to help enhance your self-confidence? Consider the idea of power posing. Power posing means that you stand in a powerful way, which then promotes hormonal and cognitive changes, thus making you more confident and ready for action.
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Power poses are those that are expansive and open,this means taking up a lot of space and having open limbs (Carney, Cuddy & Yap, 2010). These poses are seen everywhere in the natural world. Birds spanning their wings out, apes puffing out their chests, and even dominant people, especially those that hold powerful positions (e.g. Politicians, Managers) often take a high power stance (Carney, et al., 2010). High power pose can be shown as arms on hips, legs apart: the "Wonder Woman" pose; or seated with legs on desk and hands behind head; the "CEO" pose. The opposite of this is low power poses, these poses have the person with limbs close and tight to the body, being as small as possible (Carney, et al., 2010). It has been found that the key difference between dominant and submissive people are their body expansiveness (Huang, Galinsky, Gruenfeld & Guillory, 2011).
The purpose of this chapter is to explore how to harness the power of these poses to help with Self-confidence. Self-confidence is assurance in ones own judgement, ability or power. The terms power and self-confidence will be used interchangeably, due to the focus most research has on the "power" power poses elicit. The benefits of having self-confidence and feeling more powerful is possibly greater access to resources, higher levels of agency and control over own mind and body, positive feelings and advanced cognitive function, with more creative problem solving (Carney, et al., 2010; Huang, et al., 2011) People who feel more self-confident are more willing to engage in action and partake in increased risk taking, this can be in form of a work related gamble or stocks (Carney, et al., 2010). Higher self confidence gives people a sense of power when involved in generally stressful situations such as social situations involving new people, negotiations or job interviews (Carney, et al., 2010; Huang, et al., 2011). When holding these high power poses in the presence of others, it gives them a sense that whoever is holding the most dominate pose is actually the one in charge, despite any job titles (Huang, et al., 2011). So it would be great to have more self-confidence then, right?
How does "Power Posing" work?
It has been found that high power poses make adaptive psychological, physiological and behavioural changes (Carney, et al., 2010). A personscortisol and increases testosterone (Carney, et al., 2010; Huang, et al., 2011). One of the neuroendocrine changes that is related to high power poses is decreases in cortisol, know as the stress hormone. During stressful periods, cortisol increases which is an important part of adaptive response to challenges in the short term (Carney, et al., 2010; Huang, et al., 2011). However, too much cortisol in extended periods is detrimental to health, the effects can be impaired immune functioning, hypertension and memory loss (Carney, et al., 2010). Those that are more confident have a lower basal level of cortisol and less reactivity to cortisol which keeps them generally healthier (Carney, et al., 2010; Huang, et al., 2011). This, however, is the opposite for low power pose holders, for low power posers there is increased chance of stress related illness (Carney, et al., 2010).own body expansiveness can work as proprioceptive feedback, meaning the body tells the brain the relative position of body parts and then uses this as a cue for behaviour (Huang, et al., 2011). Power posing works by causing a physiological change, which lowers
The other neuroendocrine change is increased testosterone, which is known as the dominance hormone, which leads to more feelings of status and being in charge (Carney, et al., 2010; Huang, et al., 2011). Testosterone is important as testosterone increasein anticipation of competition and in the result of a win, this in turn predicts future desire to participate in another competition (Carney, et al., 2010). This works in the other direction, when defeated testosterone levels decreases and can result in the defeated being unwilling to participate in future competitions (Carney, et al., 2010).
Power posing doesn't just help in relation to feeling more self-confident but it can also help in times when pain is inevitable. The effects posture have on feelings of self-confidence and power have been shown to bring positive benefits such as lower cortisol, higher testosterone and increased risk taking, these benefits are also shown to help reduce sensitivity to pain (Bohns & Wiltermuth, 2012). Holding high power poses builds perception of control and self-efficacy, and these have been linked to reduced sensitivity to pain (Bohns & Wiltermuth, 2012). Bohns & Wiltermuth's (2012) study found that those who held dominant poses displayed higher pain threshold than other participants who held submissive or neutral poses. A high pain threshold has been associated with higher testosterone, which as studies have shown increases when a dominate pose is taken (Bohns & Wiltermuth, 2012). This is a handy tip for next time you visit the doctor!
What are the theories?
There is one theory behind Power Posing, but it has many dimensions. The theory behind power poses is that of Embodied Cognition (also known as Grounded Cognition). Embodied cognition is the idea that the mind must be understood in the context of its relationship with a body that is interacting with the world (Price, Peterson & Harmon-Jones, 2012). The body has links to important psychological processes such as motivation, emotion and cognitive activity (Huang, et al., 2011; Price, et al., 2012). Previously the relationships between cognition and the body hasbeen separated, with the body being seen as theoretically unimportant (Foglia & Wilson, 2013). A focus on the mind as a computerised system took hold of the main way of thinking, embodied cognition works at bringing the importance of the body back into view (Foglia & Wilson, 2013; Price, et al., 2012; Schubert & Koole, 2009). To support the theory of embodied cognition, there has been a growing number of studies which look at manipulated facial expressions and emotion, hand contractions and approach/avoidance motivation and the effects posture has on power and mood (Price, et al., 2012). Researchers have found that nodding of the head helps form a positive attitude towards neutral objects (Price, et al., 2012). One of the first studies on the effects that posture can have on mood discovered that when trying to solve unsolvable puzzles, participants who held an upright position persisted longer than those in a slumped position (Price, et al., 2012).
The physiological science behind Embodied cognition has a few aspects to it. The bodily feedback system tells the brain where it is in relation to the physical world, this feedback activates approach motivation, fires mirror neurons and changes neuroendocrine levels (Foglia & Wilson, 2013; Price, et al., 2012) The bodily feedback from a certain pose influences relative left frontal cortical activity, Approach motivation is the act of seeking out a positive result (Price, et al., 2012). As mentioned before posture can change the neuroendocrine levels, such as lowering cortisol and increasing testosterone (Price, et al., 2012). The mirror neuron system is also thought to help with changing the feelings of self-confidence (Foglia & Wilson, 2013; Price, et al., 2012). The mirror neuron system lights up as if performing a certain task when watching another person perform that task (Foglia & Wilson, 2013; Price, et al., 2012). It is believed that seeing, feeling and performing tasks are a related process, which explains why when doing one, the other parts react (Foglia & Wilson, 2013; Price, et al., 2012).this is the part of the brain which activates approach motivation (Price, et al., 2012).
Foglia and Wilson (2013) have several examples of important ways our body helps with cognitive load. Foglia and Wilson (2013) point out that people often make gesture while speaking, which bring about the mental components of actually performing the task. The use of the body as a tool to aid in cognitive learning is shown when finger counting is used (Foglia & Wilson, 2013). That without the body, the mind would fail at visual perception, the body's feedback about where it is in relation to the physical world is important for this task (Foglia & Wilson, 2013). People often use their body in certain positions in order to help them remember, problem solve or imagine (Foglia & Wilson, 2013).
What are the studies?
Letstalk about some of the studies mentioned in more detail. Cuddy is famous for her TED talk that discusses power posing. (Link below) The study Cuddy and her colleagues did showed the positive effects that standing in these poses for merely two minutes could do (Carney, et al., 2010). People were randomly assigned either a high power pose or low power pose (Carney, et al., 2010). They measured cortisol and testosterone levels before and after the participant engaged in the poses (Carney, et al., 2010). They found lower levels of cortisol and higher levels of testosterone after the high power poses (Carney, et al., 2010). They also measured risk taking by self-report, asking how in control they felt, the researchers found those in the high power poses felt increased control and took more risk than those is low power pose (Carney, et al., 2010).
In another study, researchers looked at the question "Are Powerful postures more important than Powerful roles?" (Huang, et al., 2011). They tested this by telling participants that according to a survey they took they were either in a dominant or submissive role and had them hold either a high power pose or a low power pose (Huang, et al., 2011). The findings showed that role had no effect on the ratings of power, however posture in conduction with both role conditions had a positive effect on the participants feelings of power (Huang, et al., 2011) The researchers conducted 3 experiments,in another experiment the researchers also found holding high power poses caused the participants to feel more powerful than when recalling a time they had felt powerful (Huang, et al., 2011).
One of the first studies to explore the body and it'slink with cognition was done in relation to posture; either stooping or sitting upright (Huang, et al., 2011; Riskind, 1984). Riskind (1984) found that the participants who were placed in an upright position whist trying to solve an unsolvable problem persisted longer than those who were in a slouched position. The participants who were upright felt like they were more in control and confident (Riskind, 1984). Riskind (1984) did, however, discover that when defeated, taking a low power pose could minimise feelings of helplessness and depression. Showing that there is no such thing as a bad pose, just different poses have advantages in different situations .
Whilst theseself-concept and power. In these studies however, these effects were not found in female participants (Schubert & Koole, 2009). The researches hypothesised that perhaps males used more physical aggression in general to gain power than females do, therefore when making aggressive gestures felt more powerful (Schubert & Koole, 2009).studies have found no difference between females and males, one study did. This study explored the effects of making a fist on feelings of power (Schubert & Koole, 2009). Schubert and Koole (2009) found that when male participants made a first , the participants reported feeling more assertive and esteemed. In a related study, Schubert and Koole (2009) found in those making a fist, stronger associations between
Dear Agony Aunt,
I have just graduated from university with a Psychology degree and am hoping to go out into the world and get my dream job. I have been working in retail throughout my study and have always been nervous doing job interviews. This is going to be a million times worse when I go for my dream job! I also have a date with my long time crush on Saturday night and want to really impress him. Do you have any advice on how to increase my self-confidence in both situations?
Congratulations on finishing your degree! I do have some advice for your upcoming dream job interview. There is a psychological theory called embodied cognition. This theory proposes that the body has the ability to send signals back to your brain which can change your cognitive thinking and physiology. Researchers have found that if you stand in powerful poses you change both your cognition and your neuroendocrine levels. To do this there are 2 poses that you can do for a minute each. So get your stopwatch out! First stand tall, with your legs comfortably apart and your hands on your hips, much like Wonder Woman. Stand like this for a minute, it won't hurt to imagine nailing this interview while you're posing. Next get yourself into a chair that's near a table, put your legs on the table with ankles together, then put your hands behind your head, imagine you are a powerful CEO. Feeling more confident already? Great! Now you've done that your testosterone levels should have increased, meaning you will feel more up for challenges. Also, your cortisol levels should have decreased and you should be feeling much less stressed. These poses will have also activated the frontal lobe (front part) of your brain which activates your approach motivation. In this case, approach the challenge and reward of successfully executing the interview. You might be wondering when you should do these poses. Study is lacking in how long these effects can last for. I suggest when you wake up, start your day ready for action and top up as needed.
- Looking for more information on Testosterone?
- Looking for more information on Self-esteem?
- Looking for more information on Stress?
Bohns, V. & Wiltermuth, S. (2012). It hurts when I do this (or you do that): Posture and pain tolerance. Journal or Experimental Social Psychology, 48(1), 341-345. doi: 10.1016/j.jesp.2011.05.022
Carney, D., Cuddy, A. and Yap, A. (2010). Power Posing: Brief Nonverbal Displays Affect Neuroendocrine Levels and Risk Tolerance. Psychological Science, 21(1363). doi: 10.1177/0956797610383437
Foglia, L. and Wilson, R. (2013). Embodied cognition. Wiley's Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science, 4(3), 319–325. doi: 10.1002/wcs.1226
Huang, L., Galinsky, A., Gruenfeld, D. and Guillory, L. (2011). Powerful Postures Versus Powerful Roles: Which Is the Proximate Correlate of Thought and Behavior?, Psychological Science, 22(95). doi: 10.1177/0956797610391912
Price, T., Peterson, C. & Harmon-Jones, E. (2012). The Emotive Neuroscience of Embodiment. Motivation and Emotion, 36(1), 27-37. doi: 10.1007/s11031-011-9258-1
Riskind, J. (1984). They Stoop to Conquer: Guiding and Self-Regulatory Functions of Physial Posture after Success and Failure, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 47(3), 479-493. doi:10.1037/0022-35126.96.36.1999
Schubert, T. & Koole, S. (2009). The embodied self: Making a fist enhances men's power-related self-conceptions. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 45(4), 828-834. doi: 10.1016/j.jesp.2009.02.003