So I want to start by offering you a free no-tech life hack, and all it
requires of you is this: that you change your posture for two
minutes. But before I give it away, I want to ask you to right now do
a little audit of your body and what you're doing with your body. So
how many of you are sort of making yourselves smaller? Maybe
you're hunching, crossing your legs, maybe wrapping your ankles.
Sometimes we hold onto our arms like this. Sometimes we spread
out. (Laughter) I see you. (Laughter) So I want you to pay attention
to what you're doing right now. We're going to come back to that in
a few minutes, and I'm hoping that if you learn to tweak this a little
bit, it could significantly change the way your life unfolds.
So, we're really fascinated with body language, and we're
particularly interested in other people's body language. You know,
we're interested in, like, you know — (Laughter) — an awkward
interaction, or a smile, or a contemptuous glance, or maybe a very
awkward wink, or maybe even something like a handshake.
Narrator: Here they are arriving at Number 10, and look at this
lucky policeman gets to shake hands with the President of the
United States. Oh, and here comes the Prime Minister of the — ? No.
(Laughter) (Applause) (Laughter) (Applause)
Amy Cuddy: So a handshake, or the lack of a handshake, can have
us talking for weeks and weeks and weeks. Even the BBC and The
New York Times. So obviously when we think about nonverbal
behavior, or body language -- but we call it nonverbals as social
scientists -- it's language, so we think about communication. When
we think about communication, we think about interactions. So
what is your body language communicating to me? What's mine
communicating to you?
And there's a lot of reason to believe that this is a valid way to look
at this. So social scientists have spent a lot of time looking at the
effects of our body language, or other people's body language, on
judgments. And we make sweeping judgments and inferences from
body language. And those judgments can predict really meaningful
life outcomes like who we hire or promote, who we ask out on a
date. For example, Nalini Ambady, a researcher at Tufts University,
shows that when people watch 30-second soundless clips of real
physician-patient interactions, their judgments of the physician's
niceness predict whether or not that physician will be sued. So it
doesn't have to do so much with whether or not that physician was
incompetent, but do we like that person and how they interacted?
Even more dramatic, Alex Todorov at Princeton has shown us that
judgments of political candidates' faces in just one second predict
70 percent of U.S. Senate and gubernatorial race outcomes, and
even, let's go digital, emoticons used well in online negotiations can
lead to you claim more value from that negotiation. If you use them
poorly, bad idea. Right? So when we think of nonverbals, we think of
how we judge others, how they judge us and what the outcomes
are. We tend to forget, though, the other audience that's influenced
by our nonverbals, and that's ourselves.
We are also influenced by our nonverbals, our thoughts and our
feelings and our physiology. So what nonverbals am I talking about?
I'm a social psychologist. I study prejudice, and I teach at a
competitive business school, so it was inevitable that I would
become interested in power dynamics. I became especially
interested in nonverbal expressions of power and dominance.
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. (Laughter) So they do this both
when they have power sort of chronically, and also when they're
feeling powerful in the moment. And this one is especially
interesting because it really shows us how universal and old these
expressions of power are. This expression, which is known as pride,
Jessica Tracy has studied. She shows that people who are born with
sight and people who are congenitally blind do this when they win
at a physical competition. So when they cross the finish line and
they've won, it doesn't matter if they've never seen anyone do it.
They do this. So the arms up in the V, the chin is slightly lifted.
What do we do when we feel powerless? We do exactly the opposite.
We close up. We wrap ourselves up. We make ourselves small. We
don't want to bump into the person next to us. So again, both
animals and humans do the same thing. And this is what happens
when you put together high and low power. So what we tend to do
when it comes to power is that we complement the other's
nonverbals. So if someone is being really powerful with us, we tend
to make ourselves smaller. We don't mirror them. We do the
opposite of them.
So I'm watching this behavior in the classroom, and what do I
notice? I notice that MBA students really exhibit the full range of
power nonverbals. So you have people who are like caricatures of
alphas, really coming into the room, they get right into the middle
of the room before class even starts, like they really want to occupy
space. When they sit down, they're sort of spread out. They raise
their hands like this. You have other people who are virtually
collapsing when they come in. As soon they come in, you see it. You
see it on their faces and their bodies, and they sit in their chair and
they make themselves tiny, and they go like this when they raise
their hand. I notice a couple of things about this. One, you're not
going to be surprised. It seems to be related to gender. So women
are much more likely to do this kind of thing than men. Women feel
chronically less powerful than men, so this is not surprising. But the
other thing I noticed is that it also seemed to be related to the
extent to which the students were participating, and how well they
were participating. And this is really important in the MBA
classroom, because participation counts for half the grade.
So business schools have been struggling with this gender grade
gap. You get these equally qualified women and men coming in and
then you get these differences in grades, and it seems to be partly
attributable to participation. So I started to wonder, you know, okay,
so you have these people coming in like this, and they're
participating. Is it possible that we could get people to fake it and
would it lead them to participate more?
So my main collaborator Dana Carney, who's at Berkeley, and I really
wanted to know, can you fake it till you make it? Like, can you do
this just for a little while and actually experience a behavioral
outcome that makes you seem more powerful? So we know that our
nonverbals govern how other people think and feel about us.
There's a lot of evidence. But our question really was, do our
nonverbals govern how we think and feel about ourselves?
There's some evidence that they do. So, for example, we smile when
we feel happy, but also, when we're forced to smile by holding a
pen in our teeth like this, it makes us feel happy. So it goes both
ways. When it comes to power, it also goes both ways. So when you
feel powerful, you're more likely to do this, but it's also possible
that when you pretend to be powerful, you are more likely to
actually feel powerful.
So the second question really was, you know, so we know that our
minds change our bodies, but is it also true that our bodies change
our minds? And when I say minds, in the case of the powerful, what
am I talking about? So I'm talking about thoughts and feelings and
the sort of physiological things that make up our thoughts and
feelings, and in my case, that's hormones. I look at hormones. So
what do the minds of the powerful versus the powerless look like?
So powerful people tend to be, not surprisingly, more assertive and
more confident, more optimistic. They actually feel that they're
going to win even at games of chance. They also tend to be able to
think more abstractly. So there are a lot of differences. They take
more risks. There are a lot of differences between powerful and
powerless people. Physiologically, there also are differences on two
key hormones: testosterone, which is the dominance hormone, and
cortisol, which is the stress hormone. So what we find is that high-
power alpha males in primate hierarchies have high testosterone
and low cortisol, and powerful and effective leaders also have high
testosterone and low cortisol. So what does that mean? When you
think about power, people tended to think only about testosterone,
because that was about dominance. But really, power is also about
how you react to stress. So do you want the high-power leader
that's dominant, high on testosterone, but really stress reactive?
Probably not, right? You want the person who's powerful and
assertive and dominant, but not very stress reactive, the person
who's laid back.
So we know that in primate hierarchies, if an alpha needs to take
over, if an individual needs to take over an alpha role sort of
suddenly, within a few days, that individual's testosterone has gone
up significantly and his cortisol has dropped significantly. So we
have this evidence, both that the body can shape the mind, at least
at the facial level, and also that role changes can shape the mind.
So what happens, okay, you take a role change, what happens if you
do that at a really minimal level, like this tiny manipulation, this tiny
intervention? "For two minutes," you say, "I want you to stand like
this, and it's going to make you feel more powerful."
So this is what we did. We decided to bring people into the lab and
run a little experiment, and these people adopted, for two minutes,
either high-power poses or low-power poses, and I'm just going to
show you five of the poses, although they took on only two. So
here's one. A couple more. This one has been dubbed the "Wonder
Woman" by the media. Here are a couple more. So you can be
standing or you can be sitting. And here are the low-power poses.
So you're folding up, you're making yourself small. This one is very
low-power. When you're touching your neck, you're really
protecting yourself. So this is what happens. They come in, they spit
into a vial, we for two minutes say, "You need to do this or this."
They don't look at pictures of the poses. We don't want to prime
them with a concept of power. We want them to be feeling power,
right? So two minutes they do this. We then ask them, "How
powerful do you feel?" on a series of items, and then we give them
an opportunity to gamble, and then we take another saliva sample.
That's it. That's the whole experiment.
So this is what we find. Risk tolerance, which is the gambling, what
we find is that when you're in the high-power pose condition, 86
percent of you will gamble. When you're in the low-power pose
condition, only 60 percent, and that's a pretty whopping significant
difference. Here's what we find on testosterone. From their baseline
when they come in, high-power people experience about a 20-
percent increase, and low-power people experience about a 10-
percent decrease. So again, two minutes, and you get these
changes. Here's what you get on cortisol. High-power people
experience about a 25-percent decrease, and the low-power people
experience about a 15-percent increase. So two minutes lead to
these hormonal changes that configure your brain to basically be
either assertive, confident and comfortable, or really stress-
reactive, and, you know, feeling sort of shut down. And we've all
had the feeling, right? So it seems that our nonverbals do govern
how we think and feel about ourselves, so it's not just others, but
it's also ourselves. Also, our bodies change our minds.
But the next question, of course, is can power posing for a few
minutes really change your life in meaningful ways? So this is in the
lab. It's this little task, you know, it's just a couple of minutes.
Where can you actually apply this? Which we cared about, of course.
And so we think it's really, what matters, I mean, where you want to
use this is evaluative situations like social threat situations. Where
are you being evaluated, either by your friends? Like for teenagers
it's at the lunchroom table. It could be, you know, for some people
it's speaking at a school board meeting. It might be giving a pitch
or giving a talk like this or doing a job interview. We decided that
the one that most people could relate to because most people had
been through was the job interview.
So we published these findings, and the media are all over it, and
they say, Okay, so this is what you do when you go in for the job
interview, right? (Laughter) You know, so we were of course
horrified, and said, Oh my God, no, no, no, that's not what we
meant at all. For numerous reasons, no, no, no, don't do that.
Again, this is not about you talking to other people. It's you talking
to yourself. What do you do before you go into a job interview? You
do this. Right? You're sitting down. You're looking at your iPhone --
or your Android, not trying to leave anyone out. You are, you know,
you're looking at your notes, you're hunching up, making yourself
small, when really what you should be doing maybe is this, like, in
the bathroom, right? Do that. Find two minutes. So that's what we
want to test. Okay? So we bring people into a lab, and they do either
high- or low-power poses again, they go through a very stressful
job interview. It's five minutes long. They are being recorded.
They're being judged also, and the judges are trained to give no
nonverbal feedback, so they look like this. Like, imagine this is the
person interviewing you. So for five minutes, nothing, and this is
worse than being heckled. People hate this. It's what Marianne
LaFrance calls "standing in social quicksand." So this really spikes
your cortisol. So this is the job interview we put them through,
because we really wanted to see what happened. We then have
these coders look at these tapes, four of them. They're blind to the
hypothesis. They're blind to the conditions. They have no idea who's
been posing in what pose, and they end up looking at these sets of
tapes, and they say, "Oh, we want to hire these people," -- all the
high-power posers -- "we don't want to hire these people. We also
evaluate these people much more positively overall." 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. We also, 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.
So when I tell people about this, that our bodies change our minds
and our minds can change our behavior, and our behavior can
change our outcomes, they say to me, "I don't -- It feels fake."
Right? So I said, fake it till you make it. I don't -- It's not me. I don't
want to get there and then still feel like a fraud. I don't want to feel
like an impostor. I don't want to get there only to feel like I'm not
supposed to be here. And that really resonated with me, because I
want to tell you a little story about being an impostor and feeling
like I'm not supposed to be here.
When I was 19, I was in a really bad car accident. I was thrown out
of a car, rolled several times. I was thrown from the car. And I woke
up in a head injury rehab ward, and I had been withdrawn from
college, and I learned that my I.Q. had dropped by two standard
deviations, which was very traumatic. I knew my I.Q. because I had
identified with being smart, and I had been called gifted as a child.
So I'm taken out of college, I keep trying to go back. They say,
"You're not going to finish college. Just, you know, there are other
things for you to do, but that's not going to work out for you." So I
really struggled with this, and I have to say, having your identity
taken from you, your core identity, and for me it was being smart,
having that taken from you, there's nothing that leaves you feeling
more powerless than that. So I felt entirely powerless. I worked and
worked and worked, and I got lucky, and worked, and got lucky,
Eventually I graduated from college. It took me four years longer
than my peers, and I convinced someone, my angel advisor, Susan
Fiske, to take me on, and so I ended up at Princeton, and I was like,
I am not supposed to be here. I am an impostor. And the night
before my first-year talk, and the first-year talk at Princeton is a
20-minute talk to 20 people. That's it. I was so afraid of being
found out the next day that I called her and said, "I'm quitting." She
was like, "You are not quitting, because I took a gamble on you, and
you're staying. You're going to stay, and this is what you're going to
do. You are going to fake it. You're going to do every talk that you
ever get asked to do. You're just going to do it and do it and do it,
even if you're terrified and just paralyzed and having an out-of-
body experience, until you have this moment where you say, 'Oh my
gosh, I'm doing it. Like, I have become this. I am actually doing
this.'" So that's what I did. Five years in grad school, a few years,
you know, I'm at Northwestern, I moved to Harvard, I'm at Harvard,
I'm not really thinking about it anymore, but for a long time I had
been thinking, "Not supposed to be here. Not supposed to be here."
So at the end of my first year at Harvard, a student who had not
talked in class the entire semester, who I had said, "Look, you've
gotta participate or else you're going to fail," came into my office. I
really didn't know her at all. And she said, she came in totally
defeated, and she said, "I'm not supposed to be here." And that was
the moment for me. Because two things happened. One was that I
realized, oh my gosh, I don't feel like that anymore. You know. I
don't feel that anymore, but she does, and I get that feeling. And
the second was, she is supposed to be here! Like, she can fake it,
she can become it. So I was like, "Yes, you are! You are supposed to
be here! And tomorrow you're going to fake it, you're going to make
yourself powerful, and, you know, you're gonna — " (Applause)
(Applause) "And you're going to go into the classroom, and you are
going to give the best comment ever." You know? And she gave the
best comment ever, and people turned around and they were like,
oh my God, I didn't even notice her sitting there, you know?
She comes back to me months later, and I realized that she had not
just faked it till she made it, she had actually faked it till she
became it. So she had changed. And so I want to say to you, don't
fake it till you make it. Fake it till you become it. You know? It's not
— Do it enough until you actually become it and internalize.
The last thing I'm going to leave you with is this. Tiny tweaks can
lead to big changes. So this is two minutes. Two minutes, two
minutes, two minutes. Before you go into the next stressful
evaluative situation, for two minutes, try doing this, in the elevator,
in a bathroom stall, at your desk behind closed doors. That's what
you want to do. Configure your brain to cope the best in that
situation. Get your testosterone up. Get your cortisol down. Don't
leave that situation feeling like, oh, I didn't show them who I am.
Leave that situation feeling like, oh, I really feel like I got to say who
I am and show who I am.
So I want to ask you first, you know, both to try power posing, and
also I want to ask you to share the science, because this is simple. I
don't have ego involved in this. (Laughter) 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. Thank you. (Applause) (Applause)
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