Strike a Pose

Social psychologist, Amy Cuddy, discusses the differences between powerful and powerless people in her TED talk: “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are.” She also suggests that our bodies can change our thought process over time, if we learn to practice “power poses.”

Think Wonder Woman! Try it out. Just stand up, and put your hands on your hips. Practice that a few times a day or during situations where you don’t feel very confident. Your body language can change your mindset, and Amy Cuddy sets out to prove it.


We see these high and low-power poses in nature. Here I go again with the monkeys… The animals who are dominant and assertive assume “bigger,” more powerful poses (left photo). They open themselves up more. They raise their hands in triumph. While animals in danger, or those who feel threatened, tend to collapse and close in on themselves, thus becoming powerless. Their posture seems to suggest, if I just make myself smaller, no one will see me (right photo).

high-power  low-power

In a scientific study, men and women were put into two groups – one group assumed high-power poses and the other group assumed low-power poses for two minutes. Then scientists studied their body chemistry, and the results were astounding. After only two minutes, their chemistry had undergone a significant shift. Testosterone and cortisol levels changed dramatically. Ideally, in difficult situations, a powerful, confident leader undergoes the following changes:

    • Testosterone levels rise
    • Cortisol levels drop

For those who assumed high-power poses, that is, indeed, what happened. We can’t say the same for the low-power posers.

Amy Cuddy then cites another study where men and women were asked to practice high-power poses before a job interview. Another group practiced low-power poses. Then a panel of non-partial judges rated each candidate based on who they would rather hire. The individuals who practiced high-power poses were unanimously rated the highest. They had more of a “presence” during the interview. They looked confident and comfortable. They spoke with passion, authenticity, and enthusiasm. They captivated their audience.

lowpowerpose or-these

Professor Cuddy’s practical tip is to assume a high-power pose of your choice right before an interview. Try leaning back in the driver’s seat of your car with your hands behind your head. Or assume the Wonder Woman position in the bathroom before you’re called into meet with the interviewer. It can’t hurt to try! Feign it ’til you feel it!

I would suggest even trying out these poses in class. Take your pick! Assume the position right before a test or exam. Spread out. Make yourself bigger than you actually feel, and see if you feel more confidence when bubbling in the right answers.

Check out Amy Cuddy’s 20-minute TED talk for an in-depth look at the science behind body language.

*All Photos Courtesy of Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk

love & peace,


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