“Power poses”, or the idea that faking powerful body language reduces stress and improves your performance in a stressful situation, is a tip we’ve repeated several times. However, one of the lead researchers behind the idea has made a complete about-face, and so should we — unless, of course, it works for you.
Photo by Tom Bullock.
Social psychologist Amy Cuddy, who first presented the idea of power poses several years ago, did her work with co-author Dana Carney. Carney recently turned around and said that first, it’s near impossible to replicate the study results that asserted their efficacy in the first place, and second, that she simply doesn’t believe they’re real — or that their effects are real — so she’s dismissing it entirely. The Science Of Us explains in their piece (linked below):
Now, we can add another researcher to the sceptical camp — one who will be difficult for anyone to ignore: one of the original paper’s co-authors. Late last night, Carney, who is now a professor at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, posted a document on her website publicly expressing, for what appears to be the first time, serious scepticism about power poses.
The key takeaway, which she underlines and bolds for emphasis: “I do not believe that “power pose” effects are real.” But Carney goes into some really interesting detail about how she came to that conclusion. She notes that while some of her scepticism stems from the recent replication attempts, there were also decisions she, Cuddy, and Yap made as researchers that she regrets in retrospect.
Part of her explanation is that the study’s results were “p-hacked”, as in they were statistically tweaked to make the results look more reliable and sturdy than they actually were, but she also notes that too many of the study’s participants actually knew the hypothesis they were testing, which in itself spells doom for your results. In fact, this is how good science is done: You have an idea, you prove it out and it seems to work, so you let people know. You keep testing, and if you can’t reproduce the effects, or think the effects may have actually been caused by something else, you have to acknowledge that, and the lack of evidence, and change your story.
Bottom line, if you’re adopting “power poses” before big events like a presentation, speech or other nerve-wracking event, and it’s actually helping you, then well, there’s no harm in it. After all, people have been saying “fake it till you make it” longer than this study and its controversy, and you may be feeling the very powerful effects of a psychological placebo. If it doesn’t work for you, or doesn’t seem to help at all, that’s OK too — there’s no science to assert that it should.
‘Power Posing’ Co-author: ‘I Do Not Believe That ‘Power Pose’ Effects Are Real’ [The Science of Us]