Back in 2010, three psychologists published a paper on “power poses”, their finding being that people who adopted “power poses” (think superhero stance, feet wide, hands on hips, elbows flared) gained superhero like powers (increased testosterone, felt more powerful, took more risks).
Like me, you may have even heard one of those authors, Harvard’s Amy Cuddy, present the otherworldly findings in her TED Talk about power posing. That TED talk has been viewed more than 35 million times, was featured prominently on shows like NPRs TED Radio Hour and was the cornerstone of a successful, lucrative career built on the alleged science of power-posing.
When I first heard the claims they seemed a bit too good to be true. Could I rule the boardroom by simply assuming a pose for 10 minutes before a meeting? Doubtful, was there something in assuming a pose that might elicit some type of fake it till you make it psychological reaction? Maybe.
Power Poses a Bunch of Bullcrap?
Turns out the whole thing was a load of bullcrap. Attempts to replicate the study failed miserably. The study itself was flawed to begin with, most notably due to its tiny sample-size. Last weekend, Dana Carney, co-author of the study and faculty member at UC Berkeley, discredited the study’s findings, as her “views have updated to reflect the evidence.”
Where do I Stand on the Existence of “Power Poses”
1. I do not have any faith in the embodied effects of “power poses.” I do not think the effect is real.
2. I do not study the embodied effects of power poses.
3. I discourage others from studying power poses.
4. I do not teach power poses in my classes anymore.
5. I do not talk about power poses in the media and haven’t for over 5 years (well before skepticism set in)
6. I have on my website and my downloadable CV my skepticism about the effect and links to both the failed replication by Ranehill et al. and to Simmons & Simonsohn’s p-curve paper suggesting no effect. And this document.
There are no shortcuts folks, you can’t suddenly become a strong leader or a great speaker by standing in a certain pose. Real grit, real leadership, real gusto come from long hours of practice and lasting change, not from standing like Superman.
‘Power Poses’ Co-Author: ‘I Do Not Believe The Effects Are Real’ via Maquita Peters/NPR