SCIENCE

'Power Poses' Don't Make You Any More Powerful, Apparently

04/14/2015 04:09 pm ET | Updated Apr 15, 2015
lofilolo via Getty Images

The secret to power lies in a powerful pose.

That's according to a famous 2010 Harvard Business School study that found expansive postures -- for example, sitting back in a chair with your feet up and your elbows stretched out behind your head -- increased testosterone levels and risk-taking behaviors.

But in a new study, published on March 25 in the journal Psychological Science, scientists called these conclusions into question. The study's authors found that these so-called "power poses" don't seem to cause any physiological or behavioral changes that make people act more powerfully.

"We found that, if anything, people who had been placed in the high-power pose took less risk and had lower testosterone than those who had been placed in the low-power pose," Dr. Eva Ranehill, a University of Zurich psychologist and the study's lead author, told The Huffington Post in an email. "The differences are not statistically significant, but this is the opposite of what the 2010 study found."

For the new study, the researchers recruited 200 volunteers. First, the volunteers gave saliva samples in order to have their hormone levels tested. Then, they performed a simple task while sitting either leaning back in a chair with feet up, or slumped over and looking down -- the same two poses from the original study. Afterward, they answered questions about how powerful they felt.

What happened? The volunteers said they felt more powerful after sitting in the expansive pose, but a subsequent behavioral test revealed they weren't any more willing to engage in competition against other volunteers or to take risks, and the saliva tests revealed that their hormone levels hadn't changed at all.

"There is an effect on how they perceive themselves," Ranehill said. "But it doesn't translate into behavior or hormones in our data."

So why the discrepancy? Well, the original Harvard study was only conducted on 42 participants, so the results are less conclusive. What's more, the findings had never been replicated until now.

"Before people get carried away in claiming that a simple intervention like this can affect people's physiology and change their behavior, the interventions have to be tested with enough data to make solid statistical claims," Ranehill said.

Are you listening, manspreaders?

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