If you read nothing else, read the below.
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And if you want to really grasp this study, read the entire article, and then go listen to the Ted Talk on this.
Cuddy began developing a test to find out. She knew that folks in positions of power (and those whose ‘natural’ tendency is to put their bodies in positions of power) tend to demonstrate more assertiveness, optimism, confidence, a greater ability to think abstractly, and an increased willingness to take on risk. The most respected forms of power don’t come through hair-trigger displays of temper but instead through calm direction in times of crisis. In hormonal terms, Cuddy found that those with more power tend to have higher levels of testosterone—the dominance hormone—and lower levels of cortisol—the stress hormone. These were the numbers to look for.
For their experiment, Cuddy and her colleagues brought in test subjects and gathered saliva samples to measure baseline testosterone and cortisol levels. They than had subjects take either high-powered or low-powered poses—for just two minutes..
After that, subjects were asked how powerful they felt and were given the opportunity to gamble, a measure of risk-tolerance. Lastly, the experimenters took a second sample of saliva to test hormones after the fact.
The data demonstrated jaw-dropping results. To start, 86% of those who had put themselves into power positions showed a willingness to gamble versus just 60% of those who had adopted the low-power stances. Even more astounding, though, were the hormone numbers. Those who had assumed the high-power postures showed a 20% lift in testosterone and a 25% drop in cortisol levels. Those in low-power poses saw the reverse: testosterone levels decreasedby 10% and cortisol levels increased by 15%. Again, these changes emerged after just two minutes of taking these poses! Cuddy and her colleagues were understandably gob-smacked by what they’d found, but wanted to make sure the changes they were seeing qualified as meaningful. Perhaps the shift would only last a short while and thus would not support greater impact.
To test the results further, Cuddy came up with a second experiment. Again, she and her associates had subjects do the two-minute power drill—some going high, some going low—and then enter a room for a job interview. Cuddy ramped up the stress of the meeting by hiring an interviewer trained to stay neutral in terms of body language, someone who would create an unnerving lack of social signals for the interviewees to monitor and gauge. Outside viewers then watched videotapes of the interviews without knowing who had been assigned to which group and without any sound—so they had no access to the content being exchanged. When the viewers were asked which candidates they would hire, they almost inevitably selected those who had taken on the high-power poses before the interview. Those candidates had come across as more assertive, more confident, more comfortable, more captivating, and more seemingly authentic. As Cuddy summarizes in the TED talk, those chosen had proven able to “bring their true selves with no residue (of shame).” In short, as she concludes, “Our bodies change our minds. Our minds change our behavior. Our behavior changes our outcomes….Tiny tweaks lead to big changes.” I’ll say…. read more here.