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Power posing: Can you really feel more powerful simply by adopting a posture?

Updated: Oct 27, 2023

What if you could make yourself embody power and instantly feel more powerful by simply power posing?

That's the claim of a study that made headlines in 2010 and, two years later, became the source for one of the most-watched TED Talks of all time, with almost 100,000,000 views on the TED website and YouTube.

However, despite its popularity, four years later this study had become a well-known case study in practices that social science should avoid. That's because the original paper had multiple methodological flaws and could not be replicated.

Naturally, many social scientists came to believe that power posing has no psychological effects.

But does the fact that the effects of power-posing were overstated in the original study mean it has no effect at all? Did the critics go too far?

In our study, 1002 people were randomized and asked to spend 60 seconds adopting either a power pose (as shown in below in (1-A) and(1-B)), a contractive posture (1-C), or sitting in whatever posture the participant considered normal.

Then, we asked them to rate their mood by answering 8 questions on a 7 point scale.

We found that the psychological effects of power posing are small, but real.

Participants who said that they believed (even prior to the study) that posture affects mood reported greater increases in feelings of power from power posing. However, even after excluding these participants, a tiny but statistically significant increase in feelings of power was observed after doing power poses compared to neutral poses. This suggests that the effects might not be solely placebo or reporting bias.

Therefore, the results of our study support the skepticism regarding the large effects in the original paper, but they also suggest it's probably a mistake to say these effects don't exist.

The graph shows the difference between the pre-pose score and the post-pose score for feelings of power. The maximum score for feelings of power was 3, and the minimum was -3. Dots display the mean value for each group, while the bars show the 95% confidence intervals.

Once we subtract the effect of neutral postures from the effect of power poses (to see how much better power poses are), we get a change of 0.36. To understand this change, imagine you had answered that you neither agree nor disagree with the statement "I feel powerful right now" before power posing. The effect size we found is the same as moving you 36% closer to the next level of agreement on that scale (i.e., moderately agree).

However, a mean is not going to reflect everyone’s experience and might not be a good prediction of how well power posing could benefit you as an individual. We saw a wide range of reports of impact for power posing, as shown in this chart of the distribution of change in feelings of power among participants in either of the power pose groups.:

A total of 45% of participants reported no change in subjective feelings of power after adopting their assigned power pose. However, 18% of them reported an increase in felt power of two points or more on the 7-point scale, suggesting that the extent that these measurement changes aren’t the result of noise - power posing might have been useful for those people.

So what should you do now that you know that power posing can have a positive effect, but not reliably so great as the original study supports?

Since power posing costs nothing and takes almost no effort, it may be worth experimenting with for yourself.

We suggest you try it and, if you notice a large enough effect in how powerful or confident you feel, fit it into situations where feeling powerful could be helpful in your life, such as an important meeting, a public talk, or just going out on the town.

You could even use our habit creation system (Daily Ritual), designed to help you create a habit in three simple steps, if you want to make a habit of power posting (e.g., each morning).

[CTA] Daily Ritual - A Habit Creation System

You might also want to read the full report from our study, which contains lots more detail about our power posing research.

We hope you find our findings about power posing useful. Unfortunately, lots of studies with poor transparency, replicability, and clarity are still being published due to wrong incentives, but as Clearer Thinking’s founder, Spencer Greenberg, has written:

"Finding inconsistent results does not mean that science itself has failed; when results are not consistent, we have the opportunity to dig in more deeply to figure out what the errors or other causes are and what the anomalies mean. That is how much of scientific progress is actually made."

Spencer Greenberg


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