A Bayesian model-averaged meta-analysis of the power pose effect with informed and default priors: the case of felt power

Tags: mind, posture, random, neat, anxiety, bad news, biomechanics, etiology, pro

Two articles on PainSci cite Gronau 2017: 1. Anxiety & Chronic Pain2. Does Posture Correction Matter?

PainSci summary of Gronau 2017: ?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 wherever possible.

Carney et al infamously reported that “power poses” not only made people feel more powerful and daring, but that they had a biological fingerprint: more testosterone and less cortisol (stress hormone). And then the trouble started: “these power pose effects have recently come under considerable scrutiny,” which is a bit of an understatement: there have always been strong concerns about both the science itself and the way it was presented (premature hype).

This meta-analysis took a crack at producing the “last word” on this topic. It was part of a special edition of Comprehensive Results in Social Psychology, in which Carney herself was deeply involved (see CRSP special issue on power poses: what was the point and what did we learn?). It concluded that follow-up evidence for the original finding was “very strong,” and yet with a spectacular hold-your-horses caveat: “when the analysis is restricted to participants unfamiliar with the effect, the meta-analysis yields evidence that is only moderate.”

Translation: belief in the power of power posing will make you feel more powerful than power posing itself! Expectations seem to be the more potent active ingredient.

“Expansive postures” probably do make people feel more powerful … but only a little. Unless you believe in them, in which case you’re really off to the races. Which is fine. (“Why not both?”)

~ 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.

Earlier work found that – compared to participants who adopted constrictive body postures – participants who adopted expansive body postures reported feeling more powerful, showed an increase in testosterone and a decrease in cortisol, and displayed an increased tolerance for risk. However, these power pose effects have recently come under considerable scrutiny. Here, we present a Bayesian meta-analysis of six preregistered studies from this special issue, focusing on the effect of power posing on felt power. Our analysis improves on standard classical meta-analyses in several ways. First and foremost, we considered only preregistered studies, eliminating concerns about publication bias. Second, the Bayesian approach enables us to quantify evidence for both the alternative and the null hypothesis. Third, we use Bayesian model-averaging to account for the uncertainty with respect to the choice for a fixed-effect model or a random-effect model. Fourth, based on a literature review, we obtained an empirically informed prior distribution for the between-study heterogeneity of effect sizes. This empirically informed prior can serve as a default choice not only for the investigation of the power pose effect but for effects in the field of psychology more generally. For effect size, we considered a default and an informed prior. Our meta-analysis yields very strong evidence for an effect of power posing on felt power. However, when the analysis is restricted to participants unfamiliar with the effect, the meta-analysis yields evidence that is only moderate.

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