Research Highlights - November 2019

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How can you use the findings from the latest research studies to improve your performance and the performance of your organization?  We’ll provide the highlights and key ideas you won’t get anywhere else.

The concept of so-called “power posing,” reminiscent of superheroes like Wonder Woman, gained popularity after a 2010 study reported that people who adopted an expansive physical pose:

  1. Had decreased cortisol levels (an indicator of stress),
  2. Had increased testosterone levels,
  3. Felt more powerful, and
  4. Were more willing to take risks.

However, new research from Iowa State University, says there is no scientific evidence confirming the claims that power posing works.

Not long after the original study was published, it drew criticism because the results could not be replicated.  In 2018, the researchers responded to critics by presenting an updated analysis of their research and other studies on power posing to support their claims.

However, new research reported in the journal Meta-Psychology reviewed every study on power posing, including the analysis the original researchers provided, and it found a significant flaw.  Nearly all of the studies examined were poorly designed and failed to compare “power poses” to “normal poses.”  Instead, they only compared power poses to contractive ones, such as slouching.  The new research concludes that not having a “neutral pose” for comparison can skew the results.  That’s because any difference between a power pose and a contractive pose could occur because a contractive pose makes you feel worse than normal, rather than an expansive pose making you feel better.

The quality of experimental design in these studies is troubling since dozens of researchers worked on this topic and never identified the design problem.  What is even more concerning is the number of people who have bought into the concept, without critical analysis.  For instance, a TED Talk on power posing has been viewed more than 70 million times, and a book on power posing was a New York Times bestseller.

“There has never been a study that compared a power pose to a normal pose and found any positive effect for a power pose,” The researcher said. “I...

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