Are Power Poses Super Life Hacks or Super Junk?

It’s pretty well known that nonverbal behavior,
like body language or facial expressions, can pass on information to other people. Like, a thumbs up for “good job” or crossed
arms and a frown to say, “I’m unhappy.” But can striking a powerful pose like Wonder
Woman actually make you more powerful? Okay, well, everyone knows there’s no magical
stance to unlock super speed or flight or anything. But it turns out researchers don’t agree
on what a power pose does do, and it’s turned into a bit of a controversy. It started in 2010, when a study was published
by researchers at Columbia University. They suggested that holding a powerful pose
for a few minutes could do some pretty amazing things, changing people’s thoughts, actions,
and even their hormones. This news was shared online and offline, everywhere
from business to healthcare, with headlines like, “This Simple ‘Power Pose’ Can Change
Your Life And Career.” It turned into a pretty big thing. But here’s the deal: that study has come
under fire by other scientists. The study had 42 people briefly hold two poses
that were either expansive, which opened up the body and were considered powerful. Or constrictive, which closed the body and
were considered submissive. This short little posing session was enough
to raise testosterone and lower cortisol, a stress-related hormone, which researchers
measured in people’s saliva. It also increased risk-taking in a gambling
task, and increased people’s sense of power. In other words, it made people think and act
like they had more power, and even changed hormones that go along with that. According to the researchers and some people,
this meant that striking a pose for a minute might make you more confident and assertive,
help you ace a job interview, or lower your stress. Which sounds pretty darn powerful, right? But other scientists were skeptical of the
results, which is a good thing in science, especially when a small study claims such
big things. Sometimes, just by chance, a study will find
effects much bigger than they really are, and this risk goes up when you have a small
study. This doesn’t mean the researchers did something
wrong, it just happens sometimes. Researchers did have some specific concerns
about this study too, like some statistical analysis choices or the fact that winning
the gambling task might’ve changed hormones, even if the power pose didn’t. So scientists set out to replicate the study,
to see if they could reproduce any of the “life-changing” effects of striking a
power pose. And some studies did find a mixed bag of benefits. However, when researchers from the University
of Zurich recruited a big sample of 200 people, and published a study in 2015, they didn’t
find any hormone changes, or any differences in risk-taking behavior. Though people did say they felt more powerful
after the power poses. Meanwhile, a study from the University of
Pennsylvania published in 2017 also failed to find any differences when 247 men tried
the different poses. No testosterone differences, no behavioral
differences, and no difference in feeling powerful. Many researchers from other institutions tried
to reproduce the effects, too, adding their papers to a special collection published in
the journal Comprehensive Results in Social Psychology in 2017. They failed to find differences in cortisol,
testosterone, and risk taking behaviors, too. But they did sometimes find that people felt
a little more powerful. So it seems like posing like Wonder Woman
doesn’t actually do as much as that original study thought, if anything at all. Some studies do find effects, but a lot don’t. Two of the original authors have weighed in
on this controversy, too. One author, Dr. Carney, says she no longer
believes that power poses do anything and that the original study had various flaws. But her coauthor Dr. Cuddy says there might
be other things that could explain why some studies find effects but others don’t. For example, some studies make people do social
things, like work on a task with partners, while others don’t. Since power is a social expression, she thinks
this difference could matter, and recommends that people study it. But not all scientists are convinced, including
Dr. Carney. Dr. Cuddy also points out that while we don’t
know whether hormones or behaviors are directly affected by power poses, there is evidence
that people sometimes feel more powerful… which is not nothing. Feeling powerful could have effects like boosting
confidence or making you more assertive. But we do need more research to fully understand
what’s going on here, psychologically. So where does this leave us? Power poses are a great example of science
in action, and a good warning not to read too deeply into a flashy new discovery until
it’s been well tested. Body language can definitely communicate lots
of things to other people. But as for how standing like a superhero affects
the poser… if you feel more powerful, that’s great for you and might be helpful! But maybe don’t count on power poses to
revolutionize your life. Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow
Psych, which was brought to you by our patrons on Patreon. If you’d like to help us make more episodes
like this, you can go to And don’t forget to go to
and subscribe!

100 Replies to “Are Power Poses Super Life Hacks or Super Junk?”

  1. I struck a few poses at times when I was feeling stressed or depressed. It certainly made me feel a bit better, usually.

  2. A little difference that might change the results of this is being told to do it by a researcher vs doing it of your own volition. Sometimes I strike a power pose when I'm feeling especially anxious, and the act of doing something about my anxiety does help a fair bit, whether the actual body language does or not.

  3. I wonder what the baseline confidence level of the subjects. If you're already an extrovert/confident in social situation, it may not do much. We also can't forget the cultural contexts, since the studies were replicated in different countries. And finally, test subjects were probably mostly college students, so… how does that translate to a wider population?

  4. I find it funny how in the US, a study of 200 people is considered big, but the rest of the world scientific community finds it statically insignificant.
    Meaning that the group size is too small for anything but a basic test of your theory.

  5. Aww, I thought this was going to be about the thing some people do in photos that are supposed to make you look super-great. Now that is a power pose.

  6. Body language is massive. A recent study of participants who imitated the UFC fighter Connor McGregor found that those participants increased in confidence. Really interesting how body language affects us.

  7. If you look more powerful to other people, people will see you as more powerful. If they see you as more powerful, they treat you as such. When people treat you as more powerful, you will feel more powerful. When you feel more powerful, you act more powerful.
    I don't think it's a matter of posing like Wonder Woman. Just a matter of reminding yourself to look confident.

  8. 🙁 This blows. I did a power pose before my vocal music exam and I aced it but I guess it was just the placebo effect. I felt confident after the pose, though. I had been feeling super anxious. I might try it again and see what happens.

  9. I don't know if it's crazy or rather sensible of this comment section that I NEVER see people commenting on how beautiful and sexy Brit actually is.

    So… Brit is beautiful and sexy… done 😀 !

  10. I think you guys completely missed a big point of this question. i'm sure "power poses" don't effect the "poser" like the vid suggests, but power poses do in fact effect onlookers / people the poser is in contact with. example: a cross arm stance will make you seem unapproachable or unreachable in a conversation maybe even unfriendly . while a hands on hips or other more open body stance make you apear to be ready to listen, more friendly and inviting. all poses are forms of body language. i think it is more a valid video topic to see measurable effect power pose has on others.

  11. I think I do this already. Sometimes I stand up tall and puff myself out and I feel so much better, mentally not physically. I feel like I can take on the world and that I'm physically taller.

  12. It's funny… so, without going into my life-thus-far story, I am currently doing well and feeling/living Balanced after my deepest and longest spell of Depression yet.

    That said, naturally, I am feeling more confident and positive about myself. As I watched the video, I realized that, when I am confident at work (I'm a mechanic in the desert, so, very physically taxing job as well as psycho-emotionally taxing) I tend to strike "power" poses without a though: I open my body and self up more. Near the end of the work day, or on a rough day when I am just trying to get through, where I come up against a job that feels too taxing at the moment, within a second, primarily without conscious thought, I notice the stance of my body, and strike a Pose, and I've noticed it helps me push through when I don't want to.

    From direct, if largely unconscious, experience, I would definitely believe there is biology at play here, but my money would be on psychology and psycho-social effects as the primary Movements*.

    *Odd, and at first glance nonsensical word choice, "Movements," but it seems right, and I am too tired to offer an explanation why.

  13. Evolutionary biology and neuroscience should weigh into that area of research. A key feature of our species is the centrality of our social biology. Dominant and submissive behaviours are linked to genetics and hormonal profiles. Submissive behaviour is associated with more stress. It's definitely worth looking into more.

  14. whenever i happen to do a hands on the hip ''power pose'', i almost always stop doing it because it makes feel like a overly imposing try-hard

  15. This channel is so disappointing. It's nothing but click bait and cheerful sounding snarkiness saying nothing of consequence.

    SciShow in general is good, but SciShow Psych is horrendous. You reference academic work, but it's immediately clear that you have no depth of understanding, you don't know the topic or the field, and you don't care about it. Why don't you read the actual source material?

    You didn't explain what it is, how it came about, what it means, anything. You just said: this exists, and instead of talking about for real, I'm just going to tell you that there is nothing really going for it, so don't waste your time, at the same time as I am bashing it I am giving you a very brief and sketchy overview that shows nothing interesting and certainly doesn't give it any credence or weight. You cite academic studies, but they don't treat their subjects like that, even if they disagree, so why did you do this like this? The titles are click bait, and the shows are vapid.

    This is not the only one like this. Some others are worse. The IQ one and the personality test one are particularly full of completely erroneous, misleading information.

    So I've unsubscribed, so that I don't have to look at your notifications and wonder if this time it will be even tolerable. But I wish you luck. I think you are on a bad path, and I hope you do better.

    Don't you think your SciShow people deserve better? They're used to you having integrity.

  16. At 2:37, when it said "247 men tried the different poses", I somehow read "247 men died in the process". Science can indeed be taxing

  17. It may be an extension of the 'power smile'. You can actually make yourself happier just by smiling, which will reduce stress levels, and in turn also your blood pressure. Theatre acting suggests that this is trainable for other emotions, and probably occurs naturally to some extent. It may also be the case that poses are more ambiguous than facial expressions, and it would be detrimental to induce emotions with poses. An emotion may trigger a pose, but not the other way around

  18. The best pose is when you spread your legs straight and lean at a 25 degree angle to the ground, supporting yourself with your massive mantits, reaching out one arm holding your hand parallel to your baguette hair.

  19. Some of the most obvious and affective aspects of body language are the effects they have on others. Some research into general communication indicates that they represent something like 70 percent of interpersonal communications overall (with tonality 20, and word-choice 10); power-poses may not change your chemistry/psychology, but they certainly can change that of others…

  20. I had never heard of this. Which makes me think it gained popularity on social media (which I have avoided for the past 2 years). And that's enough for me to suspect it's complete bull. That the follow up studies were unable to corroborate it confirms that for me. It's probably just as effective as pretending you have a gun — if you make believe well enough it might make you feel slightly more powerful, but can simply thinking you feel more powerful have any actual benefit? Or just cause you to be a bit more reckless and maybe more of a jerk.

  21. Why is it so difficult to call closest people by name? While calling people you barely know by name is easy.

  22. The benefits come from better/deeper breathing and simply moving around and stretching a bit.

    Nothing special about the poses themselves.

  23. This reminded me of, and it's idea might have come from, the idea that being happy has a positive effect on your health, and if you are not happy, then merely having a forced smile also has a positive effect on your health. (So turn that frown upside down.)

  24. Last time I saw someone using a "power pose", he had one hand on his hip, and the other on a wall in an attempt to be imposing.

    Other guys response? "So, your idea of how to be imposing, is to do an impression of I'm a little teapot?"

  25. But does not the fact in it self that people feel powerful already mean that it (the feeling) was determined by the hormonal state?

  26. Dunno if this happens to anyone else, but I remember doing a workshop on power poses in school last year, and as someone who generally holds themselves in "submissive" positions, the power pose made me feel incredibly anxious and exposed. I kinda wanted to cry and huddle in the corner tbh.

  27. Why does ketamine work (whereas memantine fails) for depression?

    Suffering Sappho!

    I saw the TED Talk, but I still saw this video anyway, because I still need to know the answer to the aforementioned question.

  28. Posture and presence are what I guess are being discussed here. If you are the type of person to slouch then a power pose is not going to do much for you.
    This thing that the media call a power pose is just an outward extension of confidence. People who do it naturally are confident. Some people mimic this display to try to hack psychology.

  29. I like how they make it seem as if it's debatable. There was an attempt to replicate the study multiple times, but it failed. They couldn't replicate it. -Adam Ruins Everything

  30. … or the original study was a fluke and the people reporting that they "feel" more powerful are just trying to not disappoint the experimenters?

  31. This like this are weird, if you feel like striking a power pose will make you more confident it will. Confidence isn't a defined thing. You can fake being confident… which will lead you to realise that's all confidence is. If you can fake it then you have it!

  32. I wonder what would happen if we divided the study participants by gender identity. Men tend to be socialized to exhibit more open and space-taking postures. Other genders are socialized to take up less space and be more submissive looking. So, maybe the reason for the mixed results involves the socialization of the participants. Men may not show a difference, but other genders might feel more empowered.

  33. As a life long sufferer of depression and severe social anxiety, I can say that power posing has helped me in the most stressful situations. But I don't think my power posing before and during these events (I took up as much space as I could which is something that was sooooo not me, ever) was only effective on my self confidence, but it also made others perceive me differently. I was no longer that quiet shy girl in the background, no I was there taking up space and I had something to say and they'd better listen to me. And they did….I thank Dr Cuddy every day for her support and outreach ever since.

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  37. This is pseudo science in action. A researcher publishes a flashy study in social psychology, uses her blond hair and good looks to promote it, gets a TED talk and interviews on the major stations. Then it is revealed that the results are not reproducible, the sample size was miniscule, the parameters p-hacked. Even her co-author now says the effect does not exist. Solution: Move the goalposts. Claim that posing like Wonderwoman makes you FEEL powerful…

    The social sciences are in a deep state of crisis right now because of just this sort of shoddy research. It's not just psychology, but economics, social work, political science, sociology, linguistics, psychiatry, and sadly even some of the hard sciences are coming under scrutiny. It may turn out that a generation of social scientific research has to be thrown out the window. Fields like social psychology and sociology might as well toss their textbooks and start over from scratch. Sad.

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  43. I love power posing and I think the key is to take on a posture that actually makes you feel powerful. An open and expansive physical posture with a positive mindset can go a long way.

  44. I do not trust any research coming from the social sciences – they have been corrupted with feminism and Marxism. if it works for you, do it. Costs you nothing to try. Secondly no power pose will help unless you have the underlying skills to back it up. if you have no sales etc skills, get those first and then look into power posing

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