Back in 2010, we described a study in Psychological Science that found bodily positions traditionally associated with dominance could activate a mindset of power. It reported that assuming an assertive stance — such as holding your arms out wide to dominate the space you’re standing in — increased testosterone, decreased cortisol, and inspired greater risk-taking.
Well, in a newly published study, a different set of researchers attempted to duplicate those results, and found they could not.
“Using a large sample of 247 male participants, natural winners and losers of a physical competition were randomly assigned to hold a low, neutral, or high-power postural display,” University of Pennsylvania psychologists Kristopher Smith and Coren Apicella write in the journal Hormones and Behavior. “We found no main effect of pose type on testosterone, cortisol, risk, or feelings of power.”
Moreover, they found competition losers actually experienced a small reduction in testosterone after holding the poses. The researchers speculate that this could be a signal from the body for them to cool it and stop displaying “winner-type behavior that could result in continued defeat and harm.”
Smith and Apicella caution that their conclusions are preliminary. But their results suggest the “power poses” proposition is problematic.