Embodied power


Simoleon Sense has a post with a link to an interesting paper (here), Power Posing: Brief Nonverbal Displays Affect Neuroendocrine Levels and Risk Tolerance , by D. Carney.

In research on embodied cognition, some evidence suggests bodily movements, such as facial displays, can affect emotional states. For example, unobtrusive contraction of the “smile muscle” (i.e., the zygomaticus major) increases enjoyment (Strack, Martin, Stepper, 1988); the head tilting upwards induces pride (Stepper & Strack, 1993); and hunched (vs. upright) physical postures elicit more depressed feelings (Riskind & Gotay, 1982). Approach-oriented behaviors, such as touching, pulling, or nodding “yes,” increase preference for objects, people, and persuasive messages (e.g., Briñol & Petty, 2003; Chen & Bargh, 1999; Wegner, Lane, & Dimitri, 1994); and fist clenching increases men’s self-ratings on power-related traits (Schubert & Koole, 2009). However, no research has tested whether expansive versus constrictive power poses cause mental, physiological, and behavioral change in a manner consistent with the effects of power. Specifically, we hypothesized that high- versus low-power poses would cause individuals to experience: (1) elevated testosterone, (2) decreased cortisol, (3) increased feelings of power, and (4) higher risk-tolerance. Such findings would suggest that embodiment goes beyond cognition and emotion and could have immediate and actionable impacts on behavior. ..

Results show that posing in high-power (versus low-power) displays causes physiological, psychological, and behavioral changes consistent with the literature on the effects of power on power-holders – elevation of the dominance hormone testosterone, reduction of the stress hormone cortisol, and increases in behaviorally demonstrated risk-tolerance and feelings of power.

These findings advance our understanding of embodied cognition in two important ways. First, they suggest that the effects of embodiment extend beyond emotion and cognition, to physiology and subsequent behavioral choice. For example, as described above, nodding one’s head “yes” leads to more persuasion, and smiling increases humor responses; we suggest that these simple behaviors, a head-nod or a smile, might also cause physiological changes that activate an entire trajectory of psychological, physiological, and behavioral shifts—essentially altering the course of that person’s day. Second, these results suggest that any psychological construct, such as power, with a signature pattern of nonverbal correlates may be embodied.

The idea that we have, first, a conscious feeling of power, then take a powerful pose is not shown in experiment. Instead we have, first, the unconscious signal to take a powerful pose, then the conscious feeling of power. Embodiment appears to be attitude-bodily response-conscious feeling, in that order.

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