Summary: A new meta-analysis study examines the effects of body posture on positive self-perception, reporting that a dominant pose or strong upright posture can help people feel and behave more confidently.
Source: Martin Luther University
Dominant or upright postures can help people feel — and maybe even behave — more confidently. A new analysis from Martin Luther Halle-Wittenberg University (MLU), the University of Bamberg and The Ohio State University has confirmed what small studies already suggested.
The team evaluated data from around 130 experiments with a total of 10,000 participants. The results also refute the controversial claim that certain poses influence a person’s hormone levels.
The study is published in Psychological Bulletin.
Posture and body language are popular tools used in psychology. “In therapy, they can help people feel safe and experience positive feelings,” says psychologist Robert Körner of MLU and the University of Bamberg.
Research on power poses deals with the extent to which very bold poses can influence a person’s feelings and self-esteem. A common example is the outstretched arms victory pose, which several studies have shown is intended to increase self-confidence.
“However, many of these studies are inconclusive and were conducted with small sample sizes. In addition, studies sometimes have contradictory results,” adds Körner.
Therefore, the team conducted a meta-analytic (quantitative) review in which they combined data from around 130 experiments from published and unpublished studies. Complex statistical methods were used to re-evaluate data on almost 10,000 people.
The researchers wanted to know if posture influences a person’s self-perception, behavior and hormone levels.
The team found a link between an upright posture and a powerful pose and a more positive self-perception.
“A dominant pose can, for example, give you more self-confidence,” says Professor Astrid Schütz, personality researcher at the University of Bamberg.
The team found a similar correlation with behavior, eg task persistence, antisocial behavior, but these effects were less robust.
In contrast, the claim that certain poses can stimulate the production of physiological effects, for example hormones, such as testosterone and cortisol, which has been claimed in previous research, has not been substantiated.
“Findings on the physiological effects of power posing are not robust and have not been replicated by independent research groups,” says Schütz.
Through their work, the team was also able to identify some limitations of previous research. For example, most studies have operated without a control group; participants had to adopt a dominant, open or more submissive posture. Groups without these poses were rarely included.
“Because of this, it is not possible to say where the differences come from, because only one of the two poses can have an effect”, explains Robert Körner.
Additionally, nearly all of the studies so far have been conducted in so-called WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Wealthy, and Democratic) societies, so it is unclear whether the findings can be applied to other cultures.
The differences between men and women and between different age groups, on the other hand, were not significant.
About this psychology and posture research news
Original research: Access closed.
“Dominance and prestige: meta-analytic examination of experimentally induced effects of body position on behavior, self-reportand physiological dependent variables” by Robert Körner et al. Psychological Bulletin
Dominance and prestige: a meta-analytic review of experimentally induced effects of body position on behavioral, self-reported, and physiological dependent variables
Early research on body positions suggested that engaging in certain nonverbal displays can lead to changes in self-reported, behavioral, and physiological dependent variables. Still, there have been intense criticisms regarding the reproducibility of these effects.
To determine which effects are valid, we conducted a meta-analytic review of body position studies.
We used the dominance-prestige framework and distinguished between high power poses representing dominance and upright poses representing prestige.
We pre-registered our meta-analysis, used the largest sample of studies to date, and analyzed several theoretical and exploratory moderating variables.
Based on 313 effects from 88 studies involving 9779 participants, evidence was obtained for a statistically significant overall effect of body positions that was not negligible in size, g = 0.35 (95% CI [0.28,0.42]).
Poses and postures showed effects for self-reported and behavioral dependent variables, but not for physiological dependent variables.
However, sensitivity analyzes suggested that the effects of dependent behavioral variables were influenced by publication bias and/or outliers.
The effects were significantly larger in studies without coverage and in studies that used within-subjects designs, suggesting that demand characteristics may partly explain the results.
Whether the participants were men or women, students or non-students, or from an individualistic or collectivist culture made no difference.
We also present an application that researchers can use to enter data from future studies and thus obtain up-to-date meta-analytic results on this topic.
Future research should determine whether high power poses/upright postures increase effects and/or whether low power poses/slumped postures decrease effects.
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