According to a study conducted by Harvard University and Columbia University, how you stand effects your testosterone. So-called “Power Positions”, even if they are posed, can make a person feel more powerful and actually produce more power.
Power is posed through open postures and occupying more space by spreading out. These are “highly specific, evolved nonverbal displays”. Previous research has shown that power generates these poses, but this is the first study to see if the inverse works as well – if poses generate power. Neuroendocrine profiles of powerful people differ from those without power in testosterone levels (powerful have more) and the stress hormone cortisol (the powerful have less)
The experimenters took 26 women and 16 men and posed them in either a high power or low power pose. The subjects thought the study was about the “science of physiological recordings”. They did not know the experiment was really to see how their pose affected their power.
After posing for a minute, subjects risk taking was measured by giving them $2 and offering to double it through a dice roll, feelings of power measured through self-reports, and testosterone and cortisol levels measured through saliva samples.
86% of the power posers took the gambling risk (Compared to 60% of low power posers), and the power posers had higher testosterone and lower cortisol. The researchers concluded that “By simply changing physical posture, an individual prepares his or her mental and physiological systems to endure difficult and stressful situations, and perhaps to actually improve confidence and performance”
The study is well worth the read, not only for the results but for they overview on the effects of power on individuals and social groups. Parts of this remind of me of the placebo effect in a ‘mind hacking’ sort of way. The next time you need to act more powerful try striking a power pose.
You can read the entire study here.