We know our mind can change our body, but can our body change our mind? According to Amy Cuddy, and other researchers before her, it absolutely can.
We admire Amy Cuddy; we show her Ted Talk, discuss her book Presence, and reference power posing during our workshops. We see tremendous value in what she’s made accessible to the public: the ability to use our body to effectively change our state of mind.
Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk is one of the most-watched, with almost 40 million views. She’s received praise for her work on body language from all over the world. Recently, Dana Carney, co-author of the 2010 study that brought power posing to prominence, came forward to denounce the study itself, calling it flawed and announcing that she didn’t think the power posing effect was legitimate.
We’ve received many questions about this since professor Carney came forward with her statement, and we believe it is imperative that we examine both the allegations themselves and Amy Cuddy’s response.
What Dana Carney said
Dana Carney came forward in September 2016 and expressed the following, which was supported by a full statement:
“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.”
She drew these conclusions by acknowledging some flaws in the research design. For example, Carney mentions that too many people involved in the study were aware of the hypothesis, and this may have impacted how people performed during the study itself (i.e. by showing an unconscious bias).
What Amy Cuddy said
Amy Cuddy made her surprise known when Carney’s allegations began to surface. Specifically, Cuddy stated:
“The key finding, the one that I would call ‘the power posing effect,’ is simple: adopting expansive postures causes people to feel more powerful. Since my coauthors and I first published our evidence, this effect has been replicated in at least nine published studies and in at least four unpublished studies from nine different labs.”
She and her team conducted a systematic review and statistical analysis of power posing studies, and found evidence that adopting expansive postures, or “power posing,” does increase feelings of power. In addition, Cuddy hired a statistician at Harvard to conduct an independent audit of the 2010 research study. You can find that analysis here.
Cuddy also stated that when speaking now about power posing, she highlights what she believes are the strongest effects, and those which have yet to be determined:
“…while I am confident about the key power posing effect on feelings of power and the overall evidential value of the literature, I am agnostic about the effects of expansive posture on hormones. The jury is still out. We have conflicting evidence, which is fascinating and means it could go either way.”
What CCI says
Upon reading both Carney’s comments, as well as Cuddy’s response, CCI has formed a clear opinion on the matter.
We often engage in power posing ourselves – before workshops, seminars and keynotes – and can say with confidence that power posing works, for us, by increasing our confidence and ease when we present. Based on this fact alone, power posing holds tremendous value within our organization, and is the basis for us wanting to spread the word to our clients and participants.
Think about the animal kingdom and how many species engage in ‘power posing’ to exert dominance or increase confidence: gorillas beat their chests to intimidate; grizzly’s stand on their two hind legs to appear large and aggressive; peacocks open their beautiful feathers wide to attract a mate. And then, of course, there’s Tarzan!
Positive effects of power posing can be seen everywhere, even on Wall Street, where “fearless girl” stands tall in her power pose, defiant against the raging bull that faces her. This is an extraordinary, and timely, personification of the “power” of poser posing. When looking at “fearless girl,” the power of body language cannot go unnoticed: the message would be entirely different should the girl be standing, slouching, and with her hands by her sides. You can tell, by looking at her face, that she feels powerful.
Everybody and every body is different, and power posing may work for some and not others. We suggest that before discounting it based on Carney’s reaction, try it for yourself, and see how it makes you feel.