Do Power Poses Work?


Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) doing a high power pose

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.


Low power poses

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.


Amy Cuddy’s book on power poses

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.


Works Cited

Cuddy, Amy. “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are.” 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.

3 thoughts on “Do Power Poses Work?

  1. Taylor M Lender

    I am familar with Cuddy’s Ted Talk because it has been played in many of my college classes. The wide-spread popularity of this Ted Talk is both impressive and exciting. Why haven’t there been more exposure of these findings that contradict Cuddy’s results. These results might not get as much publicity because they are not inspiring or uplifting to hear about. Also, I had a question about the possible dangers of the power posing? What are the dangers and how does the study with the sparrows contribute. Is power posing socially dangerous by leading people to feel a false sense of security? Does power posing in a meeting, by sitting up straight and being direct, make others feel uncomfortable?

  2. Michael David Harding

    Good post with a great topic because knowing how popular that Ted Talk lecture is, millions became entrapped. Now I am a huge fan of what TED does as an organization, I believe it is some of the best things we do as humans because conversation is the true purest form of learning in my opinion. On the other hand body language can tell you more about a conversation than words and is received by the audience in a very important way. Whether scientific or not, people believe that strong body language and “power poses” bring superiority to the table. For example, Bosses do weigh strong handshakes showing confidence over a weak one, so reiterating what I said earlier it is “real” whether there is science behind it or not. Showing how important body language and tone are I suggest watching this ted talk which will really open your eyes into how beneficial faking it can be.

  3. Lucille Laubenstein

    After watching the TED talk you mentioned in the blog, my mom gave me that same advice. Before presentations or speeches, things which make me particularly nervous, she told me to go into the bathroom at school and strike a power pose to give myself a little boost. I did not find this helpful, and reading your blog helps explain why. Finding out that power poses were not the best solution, led me to research and see if there were other confidence building exercises which could give you a boost. The most helpful thing I found was on There, they have provided a lists of actions and habits to start to practice in order to build self esteem. Hopefully after beginning to incorporate these things into daily life will result in overall confidence, so the need to rely on gimmicks like power poses will be lessened.

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