Perhaps you’ve seen the famous TED talk about so-called power poses. It encouraged viewers to change the course of their lives by assuming what are thought of as dominant postures.
"So you make yourself big, you stretch out, you take up space. You're basically opening up. It's about opening up." That's Harvard researcher Amy Cuddy. Her talk is the second most-watched on the TED site: 37 million views. The 2010 study by Cuddy and colleagues that inspired the talk stated that striking power poses can affect your hormone levels, and in turn, your appetite for risk. Fake it til you make it, she said. Strike a pose, and "it could significantly change the way your life unfolds."
Problem is: that memorable advice looks suspect.
Because several studies, with many more participants, have tried to replicate the original results, and failed. The most recent attempt involved 247 male college students—nearly six times more volunteers than were in the original study. And the new study found that holding poses—dominant or otherwise—had no significant effect on testosterone and cortisol levels, or on risk-taking.
"The evidence is piling up that this might not be the most fruitful research track." Kristopher Smith, an evolutionary psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania. "These power pose effects aren't very reliable—and might not even be there." The analysis is in the journal Hormones and Behavior. [Kristopher M Smith, Coren L Apicella: Winners, losers, and posers: The effect of power poses on testosterone and risk-taking following competition]
Despite these replication failures, Amy Cuddy, of the TED talk, stands by her finding. She still says that, even if holding a pose doesn't affect your hormone levels, it still makes you feel more powerful. But this new follow-up study failed to find even that effect. And its authors aren't alone in their skepticism. One of the authors on the original 2010 power pose study, Berkeley researcher Dana Carney, announced a few months ago that she no longer believes power pose effects are real. She doesn't teach them. She even discourages studying them. So this could be the rare case where more research is not needed.