By Carlin Ingram
Do you remember that tragic date you had; the one where you were sweaty, nervous, and ended without a goodnight kiss? Better yet, recall the job interview you were one hundred percent prepared for, then mysteriously choked up, or your final exam that you had each question memorized then blanked on test day? If you could alter those outcomes, wouldn’t you?
Amy Cuddy, social psychologist and associate professor at Harvard Business School suggests in her 2012 TedTalk that “we make sweeping judgements and inferences from body language, and those judgements can predict meaningful life outcomes like who we hire or promote, or who we ask out on a date.” The working paper, which was published by Harvard Buisness School in 2012 by Cuddy, Caroline Wilmuth, and Dana Carney revolves around each person’s personal potential to command their destiny through body language, or as they call them, nonverbals.
The research began with “Sixty-six Columbia University students [who] participated in [the] study called ‘Physical Motion and Performance,’”, according to the work study. Half of those adopted the low-power pose, and half took on the high power position for two minutes prior to a high stakes situation. Afterwards they then asked them “‘How powerful do you feel?’ on a series of items, and then give them an opportunity to gamble.” The gambling served as a test of risk tolerance. 86% of the power posers opted to gamble versus just 60% of the low-power posers; presumably because the dominant group had more confidence, and less stress.
Saliva samples, which were tested before and after power posing, reflect hormones that reveal moods such as cortisol- the stress hormone, and testosterone- the dominance hormone. These hormone levels go on to dictate nervousness, passive or dominant behavior, and even perceived authenticity. As Cuddy has said in her Ted Talk “our bodies change our minds… and our minds change our behaviors… and our behavior changes our outcomes”.
“…From their testosterone baseline when they come in, high power people experience about a 20% increase, and low power people experience about a 10% decrease.” Cortisol percentages reflect even wider margins: 25% decrease in power posers, and 15% increase in low-power posers. “That’s a pretty whopping significant difference…” Cuddy noted in her TedTalk. These numbers speak volumes in the scientific community.
Most people recognize that nonverbal communication affects how others judge character; from crossed arms and hands on the neck, to hands on hips, or wide outstretched arms behind the head; we all have natural perceptions of body language. But, this study asserts that they may also transform how we value ourselves. The work study notes that: “In both human and non-human primates, expansive, open postures reflect high power, whereas contractive, closed postures reflect low power.” It is perceivable that when a person is feeling emotion that nonverbal responses instinctively follow. Even so, what Cuddy really wanted to know was if nonverbals can work in reverse. By masquerading an authoritative posture will the mind begin to feel more influential, and have better performance afterwards? The results of the research give a clear and definitive yes.
Sara Malowitz, neuropsychologist and psychology professor at our own St Petersburg College, made a statement which favors the study and its findings: “Body language can impact your emotional state. The James-Lange theory of emotion postulates that one’s facial expression can literally induce that particular emotion.”
Through focus on the influence of body language, and how people can affect their own thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, Amy Cuddy has taught countless students, and anyone inclined to listen, how to become more present and influential in their professional and personal lives…and you can too! Before your next date, interview, or test remember that there is no second chance to make a first impression. Take a quick two minutes; in the bathroom, in your car, or at home to strike a pose! Holding your power pose beforehand could be the difference in landing that job, and not leaving with the feeling you held something back. It could mean the difference in scoring that second date, and knowing they see how wonderful you are. But, perhaps most importantly, it could mean perceiving yourself in a superior light, and knowing that you can and will triumph in any challenge you undertake. So be like Cuddy, “Don’t fake it ‘till you make it, fake it ‘till you become it.”