PainSci summary of Carney 2010: ?This page is one of thousands in the PainScience.com 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 at the bottom of the page, as often as 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 PainScience.com readers.
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.
- “It hurts when I do this (or you do that): Posture and pain tolerance,” V Bohns and S Wiltermuth, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 2012.
- “A Bayesian model-averaged meta-analysis of the power pose effect with informed and default priors: the case of felt power,” Quentin F. Gronau, Sara Van Erp, Daniel W. Heck, Joseph Cesario, Kai J. Jonas, and Eric-Jan Wagenmakers, Comprehensive Results in Social Psychology, 2017.
Specifically regarding Carney 2010:
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:
- Relationships Between Sleep Quality and Pain-Related Factors for People with Chronic Low Back Pain: Tests of Reciprocal and Time of Day Effects. Gerhart 2017 Ann Behav Med.
- Modulation in the elastic properties of gastrocnemius muscle heads in individuals with plantar fasciitis and its relationship with pain. Zhou 2020 Sci Rep.
- Association Between Plantar Fasciitis and Isolated Gastrocnemius Tightness. Nakale 2018 Foot Ankle Int.
- No Added Benefit of Combining Dry Needling With Guideline-Based Physical Therapy When Managing Chronic Neck Pain: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Stieven 2020 J Orthop Sports Phys Ther.
- Effectiveness of customised foot orthoses for Achilles tendinopathy: a randomised controlled trial. Munteanu 2015 Br J Sports Med.