Power of Haas Ideas

Power Pose

How posture affects behavior, confidence

By Pamela Tom

Nervous about a job interview, public presentation, or difficult conversation with your boss? By assuming two simple one-minute power poses, you can prepare for such challenging situations and perhaps actually improve confidence and performance, according to research co-authored by Assistant Professor Dana Carney that was recently featured in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Time.

Carney’s research showed that by simply changing physical posture, an individual prepares his or her mental and physiological systems to endure difficult and stressful situations.

Carney performed a study with 26 females and 16 males who did not know they were being tested about power; instead they were told they were participating in a study about placement of electrodes.

Each participant held a high-power and low-power pose for one minute each. The high-power poses involved expansive, open posture with arms spread wide; the low-power poses involved closed posture with arms touching the torso and minimal space occupied by the body. Participants’ risk taking was measured with a gambling task after the poses.

As Carney hypothesized, high-power poses caused an increase in testosterone, which reflects status and dominance, and a decrease in cortisol, which reflects stress, while low-power poses had the opposite effects.

Moreover, high-power posers were more likely to focus on rewards—86 percent of high-power posers took the gambling risk compared with only 60 percent of low-power posers. And high-power posers reported feeling significantly more “powerful” and “in charge” than lower-power posers.

“A quick, free preparatory pose can significantly enhance your feelings of personal power and increase performance,” concludes Carney.

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Dana Carney
Assistant Prof. Dana Carney