As the popular office and leadership advice goes, if you're low on confidence, all you need to do is strike a power pose (think Superman or Wonderwoman puffing out their chest, fists on hips). Then--voila! You're a force to be reckoned with.
Except maybe not so much, according to Iowa State University associate psychology professor Marcus Credé. Maybe much more neutral positions are all it takes to feel like a rock star.
In a review published by Meta-Psychology, and as detailed in a release on Science Daily, Credé examined nearly 40 previous studies asserting the effectiveness of the power pose. And one big flaw jumped out at him: they never added neutral poses to the equation.
In standard scientific study, a key element is to have a control or something to compare your results to. And Credé says that, instead of comparing results to neutral poses, researchers typically compared results to contractive poses (e.g., slouching). And it might not be that the power pose makes you feel better--it might just be that the contractive pose makes you feel worse.
No study, according to Credé, ever has found any positive, concrete effect for the power pose. The one study that compared power, neutral and slouched poses found that feelings of dominance actually were highest with the neutral pose, while the slouched pose made people feel less dominant.
And while three other studies showed poses can influence mood, according to Credé, the results of those studies can be explained by the effects of slouching.
So at best, the literature seems to support only the idea that leaders who want to feel powerful should ditch their crummy posture habits and stand up straight like Mother Nature intended.
Debunking the Power Pose Craze
Notedly, Amy Cuddy, who largely is credited with fueling the power pose craze through her famous Ted Talk, released a study in March 2017 that seems to vindicate power posing. In that study, she and her colleagues argued that a previous analysis by Simmons and Simonsohn was misleading due to problems in which studies and study effects were selected for review. But even Cuddy's 2017 study stated that it relied on previous definitions from Carney et al and compared power and contractual poses, with the latter equated with closed or low postures. The study did not include the keyword "neutral" (or similar terms) in a literature search, instead including words like "upright," "expansive," "open," "closed," "hunched," and "slouched."
At the same time, the authors asserted that how powerful or open a pose is occurs on a spectrum. They claimed that, in choosing their own literature to review, they simply looked at whether poses were more open or powerful relative to each other.
All this said, Credé's assertion doesn't mean that power poses don't work--we know from numerous studies, for example, that the placebo effect is very real, meaning that if you've been told something is effective over and over again or will influence you in a specific way, you actually might get better results or at least perceive your situation more positively. Credé simply is asserting that we need new studies that eliminate the comparative flaw before we properly, without a doubt can attribute greater feelings of confidence with the power pose.
Until those new studies are complete, consider slouching the absolute worst thing you can do. And while a neutral stance might be beneficial and should be your bare minimum through the day, power posing likely isn't going to hurt you, either. If you honestly believe that it works and feel great about doing it, keep those fists on your hips as part of your regular routine.