One of the most popular TED talks of all time is Amy Cuddy’s “Your body language shapes who you are”, currently sitting at 37.7 million views. This talk is famously known for Cuddy’s use of the term “power poses”, a body positioning that brings confidence, energy, and overall well-being. She breaks the poses down into high power, an example being standing up straight with your hands on your hips, and low power, an example being looking down and crossing your arms to protect yourself. Cuddy even cites a study performed breaking down the increasing in risk tolerance, testosterone, and cortisol from the participants that performed a power pose. Overall, it sounds like there is no reason not to be doing power poses. However, a recent study from the University of Pennsylvania is finding different results.
Penn researchers attempted to replicate the study performed by Amy Cuddy’s group with power poses. Researchers took 250 college-aged males and tested them in an experimental study that compared saliva samples between groups of each power pose. The researchers divided out two experimental groups to perform high power and low power poses respectively. The control group performed neutral power poses, meaning they sat in a natural position. After viewing faces on a computer screen for fifteen minutes as the original study did, the men played tug-o-war and provided another saliva sample. Unlike the results that Cuddy published in her talk, the researchers did not find a noticeable difference in the results, leading them to reject their hypothesis. The study even concluded a possible harm in performing power poses, based on a comparison to a 1970’s experiment with sparrows.
The replication from the University of Pennsylvania is not alone. An article from Slate cites another replication study by psychology researchers Joe Simmons and Uri Simonsohn that has very similar findings of the Penn study. Simmons and Simonsohn actually found a small decrease in risk taking below the baseline of Cuddy’s original study. They concluded that if an effect were to exist from performing power poses, it would be very difficult to study and replicate. This meant that the original experiment has fundamental problems with how it was conducted. As Andrew showed us, a good experiment should be very easy to replicate by other scientists to demonstrate consistency. Cuddy’s experiment was difficult for researchers to replicate, and when it was, the results were inconsistent with the original results.
Overall, power poses may not be as beneficial as the millions of people were led to believe from Amy Cuddy’s TED talk. The scientific backing is not in support of the original results and some even cites problems with the poses. Would it be logical for an SC 200 student to perform power poses? Based on the studies presented, I would say no. However, the brain is very confusing and human intuition is lousy, so if power poses make you feel more confident, energetic, or positive, then power poses might be worth the risk.
Cuddy, Amy. “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are.” TED.com. TED Conferences, LLC, June 2012. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.
Gelman, Andrew, and Kaiser Fung. “Amy Cuddy’s “Power Pose” Research Is the Latest Example of Scientific Overreach.” Slate Magazine. Graham Holdings Company, 19 Jan. 2016. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.
“Power Poses Don’t Help and Could Potentially Backfire.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 Nov. 2016. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.