Your body language shapes who you are
With her research focus on stereotyping and discrimination, she offers a “free no-tech life hack, and all it requires of you is this: that you change your posture for two minutes.” Cuddy goes on to reveal how posture affects other people’s perceptions, as well as chances of success.
She shows that all sorts of animals, from reptiles to birds to mammals use power poses to communicate strength and to position themselves in their relationship to others and the environment around them:
And what are nonverbal expressions of power and dominance? Well, this is what they are. So in the animal kingdom, they are about expanding. So you make yourself big, you stretch out, you take up space, you’re basically opening up. It’s about opening up. And this is true across the animal kingdom. It’s not just limited to primates. And humans do the same thing.”
Cuddy wondered about feedback loops between body movement, gesture and the mind. For instance, she knew that being forced to smile can make you feel happier. Would the same thing be for being powerful? Can people’s bodies change their minds?
To find out, she conducted an experiment where she gave participants a fake job interview – a very stressful one at that because the interviewer was briefed to not show any response or facial expression. Participants were divided into groups of low-power poses and high-power poses. They did the poses for two minutes before their interviews.
The results were astounding: people looking at the tapes of the interviews said they would be more likely to hire the power posers and to judge them more positively overall.
Mind, the people watching the tapes were blind to the purpose of the study, as well as the hypothesis and knowledge of whether the interviewees were in the high-power or low-power group.
Cuddy concludes that in fact participants in the study weren’t “faking it” in terms of power, but instead, using their bodies to become powerful and confident. They were, in effect, “faking it until they become it.”
But what’s driving it? It’s not about the content of the speech. It’s about the presence that they’re bringing to the speech. Because we rate them on all these variables related to competence, like, how well-structured is the speech? How good is it? What are their qualifications? No effect on those things. This is what’s affected. These kinds of things.
People are bringing their true selves, basically. They’re bringing themselves. They bring their ideas, but as themselves, with no, you know, residue over them. So this is what’s driving the effect, or mediating the effect.”
Watch this video until the end and you’ll discover why Cuddy is so passionate about power relationships.
You’ll also hear her own story of faking it till she became it. Her final entreaty is a passionate one that gives an insight into how this research can be used for so much social benefit. Finally, Cuddy asks us to:
…share the science, because this is simple. I don’t have ego involved in this. Give it away. Share it with people, because the people who can use it the most are the ones with no resources and no technology and no status and no power. Give it to them because they can do it in private. They need their bodies, privacy and two minutes, and it can significantly change the outcomes of their life.”
The GIM team thinks it’s important to share Cuddy’s research: a simple solution to a big problem.