Power Posing

Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk is a must watch, not just for those who wish to appear more powerful in the workplace, it is useful in and transferrable to a variety of evaluative situations. In it, Cuddy explains how a simple pose, held for just two minutes can have a significant impact on our portrayal of oneself, not just to others but to ourselves too.

“Power Poses” as Cuddy dubs them, are innate and can be seen in primates and humans alike. Examples of “power poses” include making oneself bigger by stretching out, sitting with hands behind your head with your elbows extended, the Wonder Woman pose – with hands on hips and feet hip distance apart and the Pride pose – extending ones arms above one’s head in a V shape – commonly seen by athletes in victory. These “poses” all make us look and (perhaps more importantly) feel more powerful. Congenitally blind people who have never seen these poses have been known to adopt the Pride pose when they are victorious in a physical competition.


Cuddy notes  that powerful people tend to be:

  • More assertive
  • More confident
  • More optimistic
  • Able to think more abstractedly
  • More likely to take risks


However, there are also physiological differences between powerful and less powerful people. High testosterone and low cortisol are indicative of the ideal power cocktail. Testosterone is the hormone responsible for dominance and cortisol is the hormone which is created with stress. Therefore, the ideal combination in an effective leader is high testosterone and low cortisol as power is not simply about being dominant, it also involves how one deals with stress.

Cuddy details an experiment carried out with her colleague Dana Carney on power poses. They found that when subjects in an experiment were asked to adopt a described power pose for two minutes, their testosterone increased by 20% and their cortisol decreased by 25%. In contrast, for those who were asked to adopt a non-power pose, or a more submissive pose, Cuddy found that their testosterone decreased by 10% and their cortisol increased by 15%. When all subjects were offered the opportunity to gamble after adopting the specified pose, 86% of those who adopted the power pose gambled, as opposed to 60% of those who adopted the non-power pose.

Cuddy points out that our bodies have the ability to change our minds, our minds change our behaviour and our behaviour changes our outcomes. Simply by adopting a pose for as little as two minutes can have a huge impact on how we are perceived and how we perceive ourselves in a given situation.

She explains that this can be used in real life situations, including:

  1. Job interviews
  2. Making presentations
  3. Giving a pitch
  4. Speaking at a meeting


Cuddy adapted the above experiment so that people were asked to either adopt a power pose or a non-power pose for two minutes before going into a 5 minute interview where the interviewers were trained to give no verbal feedback whatsoever to the participants – a stressful and uncomfortable situation. After the interview, which was filmed, the interviewees were evaluated by judges who were blind to the hypothesis and conditions of the experiment, but simply had to decide whether they would hire the participant or not. Cuddy reports that the judges wanted to hire all of those in the high power pose group and evaluated them much more favourably than the low power pose group regardless of the content of their speech.

Therefore, Cuddy recommends that before going into an evaluative situation, such a job interview or before giving a presentation – simply take two minutes (in private!) and adopt a power pose – put your hands in the air in a V or stand in the Wonder Woman pose. It will impact not just how others perceive you but also how you perceive yourself.

Finally, Cuddy points out that people may be afraid that by adopting these techniques, they may be “faking it til they make it”, but what happens when they get to where they want to be and feel like they shouldn’t be there – or suffer from “Imposter Syndrome”? Her advice is simple, don’t fake it til you make it, fake it til you become it.


To view Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk, please click on the link below: