Oh dear, it seems we have a bit of a science mess.

Unfortunately a frequent side-effect of scientific exploration means false starts, confusing findings and ambiguous take-aways. At the Science of People we try to cut through the BS. So, let’s do some slicing and dicing. I wanted to write a quick post for those of you who are body language junkies like me on our perspective.

The Power Posing Problem:

Here’s the dealio and a simple overview of the problem:

  • Amy Cuddy, with Dana Carney and Andy Yap published a paper in 2010, that said different body language positions can change your mindset and your hormone levels.
  • She gave one of the most popular TED talks of all time on this research, speaks around the world about power posing and just published a recent book on it.
  • When another research team led by Eva Ranehill attempted to replicate the study, they couldn’t.

Bad news bears my friends. However, this is a common occurrence in the world of science. Studies are hard to replicate. The question is: Why hasn’t Amy Cuddy embraced this turn of events, defended it, and done more research? Instead she has continued to teach it as the pillar of her message without caveats. That’s the rub.

Small note: I have met Mrs. Cuddy and heard her speak, she is a lovely, warm person and I do NOT feel there is ill-intent here, but there are clarifications that need to be made.

What’s Next?

While we wait for Cuddy to do more research (she did some defense here), we want to explore the science a little more deeply. Power posing is only a small part of what we teach at the Science of People, but I still want to get it right! Our amazing team of Body Language Trainers and I have decided to conduct an in-depth literature review to look at the validity of power posing from a few different angles. Cuddy is not the only academic who has looked at pride and defeat behavior, so we want to see what remains as useful to us. Here’s our plan, we would love your help if you feel inclined:

  1. Examine the literature review in Cuddy’s studies. The one from 2010 and the studies she has done since. Perhaps her predecessors did a better job?
  2. Look in other academic databases on pride and defeat body language as well as how testosterone and cortisol can be manipulated by body posture.
  3. Explore the placebo effect. In her interviews and recent book Cuddy frequently discusses the amount of people who have reached out to her about the power of power posing. I also get those emails on a daily basis. More personally, whether it’s placebo or not I use power posing before every event and could swear I do feel something. Is this something the placebo effect? Maybe. Does that make power posing useless? I’m not sure.

I will post the findings on the blog, of course. If you have any relevant studies that you feel either disprove or prove power posing we would love to see them. We are just building our database now.

Thanks for joining me on this scientific adventure. Stay tuned!

7 replies on “What To Do About Amy Cuddy?”

  1. Arlin | Aboutsocialanxiety.com

    As I understand it, we should be concerned with the placebo effect when testing something that has a cost. For example, if we give medication or a sugar pill, and the sugar pill works as well as the medication, but the medication is costly and has side effects… then there is no point pursuing the medication, since it doesn’t help beyond the placebo. In this case, there is no downside to doing the power pose from what I can tell. Unless, it’s actually harming the way that you feel, or you are doing it instead of doing something else that would be more helpful.

  2. s klein

    The problem is that she does not understand science, and likely has been trained to do experiments but not educated (a typical oversight in graduate psychology programs) to make sense of her data. There is no serious theory being tested by Cuddy, and her interpretations are directed to an empirical demonstration, not to a theory-driven prediction.

    Bottom line — we credential our academics way beyond their capabilities. Most of these folk do not have the critical thinking ability to do real science. We are creating a generation of junk-science salespeople who likely do not even appreciate how academically fallow their “work” is.

  3. Michael Yurovsky

    C.Darwin would be happy to met Amy Cuddy

    “The free expression by outward signs of an emotion intensifies it. On the other hand, the repression, as far as this is possible, of all outward signs softens our emotions… Even the simulation of an emotion tends to arouse it in our minds”.

  4. Leigh

    Based on photos and previous articles, I assume you’ve taught power posing in the past during your courses – what changes will you make/ have you made due to the recent Ranehil study?

    1. Danielle McRae

      Hi Leigh, great question. Currently, our entire team of body language trainers is doing a deep dive into all research and studies on body language, hormonal changes, leadership body language and more. This literature review will reveal our next steps as to how we present power posing in our teachings and courses. Stay tuned!

      Danielle | Science of People Team

  5. Jon Doe

    I think that its all the placebo effect, but I dont know a whole lot about any of this so if I were you Id disregard this comment.

    1. steven Paul

      Whats wrong with the Placebo effect if it actually changes you πŸ™‚ and it actually does.
      there are so many studies about that indeed… if someone said something nice to you,
      that good feeling you get is the placebo effect πŸ™‚ you made it happen. Don’t diss the
      placebo, it can do wonders for you πŸ™‚

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