They are called power poses, and the idea behind them has had a big influence in the business world. Developed by a Harvard Business School professor, the concept behind power poses is that if you adopt a position of power, such as standing with your legs apart, hands on hips, shoulders thrust back, it will actually make you feel psychologically and physiologically stronger.
Because of this effect, business experts counseled people to use the poses to help them increase their confidence. It was a kind of “fake it until you make it” recipe for success.
Validity Called into Question
However, more recent research has cast a high level of doubt on the whole idea of power poses, as investigators have been unable to reproduce the effects advertised in the original research.
And now a group of investigators from the University of Pennsylvania contends that the idea behind power poses just is not true, according to their research. In fact, it may do more harm than good. The original study showed that people who adopt power poses showed an increase in feelings of power, more willingness to take risks, and higher levels of testosterone, with a decrease in the stress hormone cortisol. But the Penn researchers said they found none of these effects. In fact, they found that someone who has low confidence levels or low self-esteem actually lowers his or her testosterone levels when he adopts a power pose.
Mounting Evidence Against
The Penn study is not the only one that has not been able to confirm the original research on power poses. It has contributed to mounting evidence against the idea. Despite the increasing evidence against power poses, some are reluctant to give up on the idea, and still counsel people to use them, seeing them as a valuable tool.
But for researchers, it is important that the original results could not be replicated because, they say, it is important to get at the truth. If questionable studies like the one on power poses are not exposed as fraudulent, they could have the effect of casting doubt on research that is well founded, valid, and credible. For that reason, people who continue to conduct research on power poses need to approach the concept with a degree of skepticism.
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