Can Body Posture Change a Person’s Level of Confidence and Efficacy?

In this article, David Hochman reports on the work of Harvard Business School social psychologist Amy Cuddy, whose research shows the surprising impact of body posture on self-assurance and success. Cuddy, whose phenomenally popular TED talk on this subject is available in the link below, has demonstrated that a confident, expansive, “Wonder Woman” stance is not only an outward manifestation of confidence; striking such a pose can self-assurance that wasn’t there before.

In this New York Times article, David Hochman reports on the work of Harvard Business School social psychologist Amy Cuddy, whose research shows the surprising impact of body posture on self-assurance and success. Cuddy, whose phenomenally popular TED talk on this subject is available in the link below, has demonstrated that a confident, expansive, “Wonder Woman” stance is not only an outward manifestation of confidence; striking such a pose can create self-assurance that wasn’t there before.

Conversely, a number of less-confident body postures are common among those who are worried, have low self-esteem, or don’t think they really deserve to be there – for example:

  • Shoulders hunched inward;
  • Arms crossed;
  • Legs crossed;
  • Ankles tightly entwined;
  • Touching one’s face or neck;
  • Raising one’s hand only half-way up in class.

These are part of a self-reinforcing cycle of low confidence and decreased efficacy. Women are particularly prone to less-confident body posture, says Cuddy.

But if a person about to walk into a high-stakes situation – an interview, a date, a stage performance, teaching a class – takes a couple of minutes alone to strike a confident pose, there’s a boost in confidence and success. Cuddy and her colleagues have measured significant increases in testosterone (a hormone associated with high efficacy) and decreases in cortisone (a stress hormone) after only a short amount of time standing up straight, shoulders back, head up, arms on hips, legs in a wide stance.

Cuddy’s own story is testament to this phenomenon. She once worked as a roller-skating waitress and while in college in Colorado, was seriously injured in a car accident and given little hope of recovering full mental capacity. She persisted, graduated from college, went through graduate school at Princeton, all the time thinking she was an impostor, and worked her way into a professorship at Harvard and finally felt she belonged. “Fake it till you become it,” is Cuddy’s rallying cry for people who struggle as she did.

“Amy Cuddy Takes a Stand” by David Hochman in The New York Times, September 19, 2014, http://nyti.ms/1sFpldD

Taken from the Marshall Memo 17th November 2014

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