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Power Poses Are Nonsense

Research shows that, while people feel more in control after a "power pose," there are no significant changes in their overall behavior.
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What the Media Says

In December, Elite Daily touted "seven ways power poses can improve your health and your work life," citing a 2012 TED Talk given by the Harvard University social psychologist Amy Cuddy. The article reached millions of readers online; Good magazine followed up in January with a breathless post about Cuddy's "secret to self-confidence." This is just the latest exposure for power posing, which has garnered attention from outlets like the New York Times and the Washington Post, as well as television shows like Brooklyn 99.

What the Research Found

Cuddy based her talk on studies of mock interviews. In one example, 66 Columbia University students were told to maintain either "high-power" (expansive, open)—à la Wonder Woman—or "low-power" (hunched over, closed) postures for several minutes while preparing a speech about their qualifications for their dream jobs, which they then presented to two hiring professionals. As Cuddy and her team predicted, participants who struck high-power poses "performed better and were more likely to be chosen for hire."

What the Media Missed

In 2015, a team led by University of Zurich researcher Eva Ranehill attempted to replicate Cuddy's study with a greater number of participants. They found that, while test subjects said they felt more powerful after posing, there were no significant changes in their behavior. A year later, University of Pennsylvania researchers studied the effects of power posing after a tug-of-war competition. Among both winners and losers, high-power poses had little to no effect on feelings of power, raising doubts about Cuddy's notion that posture can help you "fake it till you become it." One of Cuddy's co-authors even posted on her faculty page: "I do not believe that 'power pose' effects are real." Throughout it all, Cuddy has stood behind her research. So, strike poses if you like—but know the jury is still out on their tangible effects.

A version of this story originally appeared in the May/June 2017 issue of Pacific Standard.