Power Plays: How Body Language Displays Communicate Risk Tolerance

Abstract (Via Harvard)

Dana R. Carney
Amy J. C. Cuddy
Andy J. Yap

Humans and other animals express power through open, expansive postures, and powerlessness through closed, constrictive postures. But can these postures actually cause power? As predicted, results revealed that posing in high-power (vs. low-power) nonverbal displays caused neuroendocrine and behavioral changes for both male and female participants: High-power posers experienced elevations in testosterone, decreases in cortisol, and increased feelings of power and tolerance for risk; low-power posers exhibited the opposite pattern. In short, posing in powerful displays caused advantaged and adaptive psychological, physiological, and behavioral changes — findings that suggest that embodiment extends beyond mere thinking and feeling, to physiology and subsequent behavioral choices. That a person can, via a simple two-minute pose, embody power and instantly become more powerful has real-world, actionable implications.

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