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“Power pose” is shoddy statistics science?

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From Slate:

Amy Cuddy’s famous finding is the latest example of scientific overreach.

Consider the case of Amy Cuddy. The Harvard Business School social psychologist is famous for a TED talk, which is among the most popular of all time, and now a book promoting the idea that “a person can, by assuming two simple one-minute poses, embody power and instantly become more powerful.” The so-called “power pose” is characterized by “open, expansive postures”—Slate’s Katy Waldman described it as akin to “a cobra rearing and spreading its hood to the sun, or Wonder Woman with her legs apart and her hands on her hips.” In a published paper from 2010, Cuddy and her collaborators Dana Carney and Andy Yap report that such posing can change your life and your hormone levels. They report that the “results of this study confirmed our prediction that posing in high-power nonverbal displays (as opposed to low-power nonverbal displays) would cause 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.”

Cuddy’s work on power posing has been covered in the press for years, including in Waldman’s tongue-in-cheek article in Slate. Most of the time, that coverage is glowing. Here’s a recent New York Times review of Cuddy’s new book, Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges: “While Cuddy’s research seems to back up her claims about the effects of power posing, even more convincing are the personal stories sent to the author by some of the 28 million people who have viewed her TED talk. … Unlike so many similar books aimed at ushering us to our best lives, Presence feels at once concrete and inspiring, simple but ambitious—above all, truly powerful.” And here’s a CBS News report from last month: “Believe it or not, her studies show that if you stand like a superhero privately before going into a stressful situation, there will actually be hormonal changes in your body chemistry that cause you to be more confident and in-command. … [M]ake no mistake, Cuddy’s work is grounded in science.”

But the story of power posing is not so simple. An outside team led by Eva Ranehill attempted to replicate the original Carney, Cuddy, and Yap study using a sample population five times larger than the original group. In a paper published in 2015, the Ranehill team reported that they found no effect. More.

How about this: No replication, no science.

Surely some change is afoot when even smart-ass digitals like Slate realize that something is wrong with what gets classed as “science.”

<em>Alarm</em> <em>Clock</em> Wall Sticker (mechanism Included)
This type makes less noise/Spin Collective

Oh wait, is that the alarm clock ringing? Dam.

Anyway, yer humble news hack remembers a high school teacher, an older doctor of classics, about 4 ft tall, whose presence and learning were so awesome that students stood up when she entered the room. It was never reported that she even knew of, let alone would care to try, any “power pose” at all.

Also, a humble priest who could command a mob to silence by raising his hand. And a man who could do the same with a peculiar pitch of his voice, when dealing with horses.

Much depends on what counts as power in a given society.

See also: Replication as key science reform

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4 Replies to ““Power pose” is shoddy statistics science?

  1. 1
    Robert Byers says:

    Naw. Faking it won’t work. You got to have the goods.
    Tony Robbins said this stuff years ago.
    First it might work a little because people are falsely lacking in confidence in themselves when its wrong.
    It might work to deceive yourself to have more confidence then you merit. Alcohol does it too.
    Then indeed people, wrongly, too quickly judge people by body language and so strutting would deceive or stop false judgements.
    All these things tap into peoples errors in relating to each other and oneself.
    Yet they do not change reality of merit.
    this hormone business is wrong. A joke will change you too or tripping on the steps.
    There is no fast way to make the brain make merit in ability.
    Possibly women need more body language controlling but it still is marginal in gain.
    No way out. One must learn things to be good and get better.
    Then a wee bit of settling it to oneself and others.

  2. 2
    EDTA says:

    It is most unfortunate however, that people with a naturally more aggressive personality (and sufficient self-control to stay out of trouble) are looked up to, and find it natural to become leaders. CEOs, politicians, managers, and so on end up where they do because of personality characteristics they are most likely born with.

    The cursed irony (at least if you care about truth and real progress in the world) is that research (hopefully good research) has found that those who emerge as leaders in groups are no more likely to be right about solutions to problems the group faces than the most shy person in the group. To rephrase that, there is no correlation between who is most assertive, and who is right. And yet most people follow the natural leaders–wherever they happen to be going.

    here

  3. 3
    mike1962 says:

    there is no correlation between who is most assertive, and who is right. And yet most people follow the natural leaders–wherever they happen to be going.

    That’s because leaders, by god, get things done. The non-leaders, regardless of how right they are, can’t marshall the minions to get anything significant done.

  4. 4
    News says:

    Laughing as I get ready for a work day, along with EDTA at 2 and Mike62 at 3. 🙂

    EDTA, I believe the research is, in this case, sound. Not all social science research is progressives drinking their own bathwater; some is illuminating and instructive. It sheds more light on what we already correctly perceive.

    And Mike1962 is also correct: In a disaster, the big blustery guy who knows all the answers could get us all killed. The trouble is, we might all get killed anyway if we just stay where we are, milling around. That is probably why there is any leadership role at all. 😉

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