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Power posing: brief nonverbal displays affect neuroendocrine levels and risk tolerance

PainSci » bibliography » Carney et al 2010
Tags: mind, random, posture, neat, anxiety, biomechanics, etiology, pro

Three articles on PainSci cite Carney 2010: 1. Does Posture Matter?2. Why Do Muscles Feel Stiff and Tight?3. Mind Over Pain

PainSci commentary on Carney 2010: ?This page is one of thousands in the bibliography. It is not a general article: it is focused on a single scientific paper, and it may provide only just enough context for the summary to make sense. Links to other papers and more general information are provided wherever possible.

This famous paper presents the original evidence that “power posing” will not only make people feel more powerful but also cause some hormonal changes consistent with confidence. A “power pose” is a posture of “nonverbal expansiveness” (confidence, openness, happiness, etc).

“A person can, by assuming two simple 1-min poses, embody power and instantly become more powerful.” This is plausible and interesting, but melodramatically stated, and probably over-stated.

These findings are the basis for one of the most popular TED talks of all time, and the authors undoubtedly reached beyond what their data could support, and subsequent studies conspicuously failed to replicate their results.

Gronau et al concluded in a meta-analysis — probably getting close to the “last word” on the topic — that total evidence for the original finding is “only moderate.” My take on it for now is that it’s probably a real thing, but a minor thing.

See also Bohns, which presents some evidence that power postures can also reduce pain sensitivity, of particular interest to readers.

~ Paul Ingraham

original abstract Abstracts here may not perfectly match originals, for a variety of technical and practical reasons. Some abstacts are truncated for my purposes here, if they are particularly long-winded and unhelpful. I occasionally add clarifying notes. And I make some minor corrections.

Humans and other animals express power through open, expansive postures, and they express powerlessness through closed, contractive postures. But can these postures actually cause power? The results of this study confirmed our prediction that posing in high-power nonverbal displays (as opposed to low-power nonverbal displays) would cause neuroendocrine and behavioral changes for both male and female participants: High-power posers experienced elevations in testosterone, decreases in cortisol, and increased feelings of power and tolerance for risk; low-power posers exhibited the opposite pattern. In short, posing in displays of power caused advantaged and adaptive psychological, physiological, and behavioral changes, and these findings suggest that embodiment extends beyond mere thinking and feeling, to physiology and subsequent behavioral choices. That a person can, by assuming two simple 1-min poses, embody power and instantly become more powerful has real-world, actionable implications.

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This page is part of the PainScience BIBLIOGRAPHY, which contains plain language summaries of thousands of scientific papers & others sources. It’s like a highly specialized blog. A few highlights: