Dominant or upright postures can help people feel — and perhaps even act — more confidently. A new analysis by Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU), University of Bamberg and Ohio State University confirms what the small studies have already suggested. The team evaluated data from about 130 trials with a total of 10,000 participants. The findings also refute the controversial claim that certain conditions affect a person’s hormone levels. The study was published in Psychological Bulletin.
Posture and body language are common tools used in psychology. “In therapy, they can help people feel safe and experience positive emotions,” says psychologist Robert Korner of MLU and the University of Bamberg. Research on power position deals with the extent to which very bold situations can affect a person’s feelings and self-esteem. One common example is the triumph with outstretched arms which, according to several studies, aims to increase self-confidence. “However, many of these studies are inconclusive and have been done on small samples. Moreover, sometimes studies have contradictory results,” adds Korner. Therefore, the team conducted a meta-analytic (quantitative) review in which data from about 130 trials were collected from published and unpublished studies. Complex statistical methods were used to reassess data on approximately 10,000 subjects. The researchers wanted to see if posture affects a person’s self-perception, behavior, and hormone levels.
The team found a relationship between upright posture, strength posture, and more positive self-perception. “A dominant position, for example, can make you feel more self-confident,” says personality researcher Professor Astrid Schutz of the University of Bamberg. The team found similar associations with behaviour, for example persistence in performing tasks, and antisocial behaviour, but these effects were less strong. On the other hand, the assertion that certain modes can enhance the production of physiological effects, for example hormones, such as testosterone and cortisol, which were claimed in previous research, has not been supported. “The findings regarding the physiological effects of force mode are not robust and have not been replicated by independent research groups,” Schutz explains.
Through their work, the team was also able to identify some limitations in previous research. For example, most studies worked without a control group; Participants were asked to adopt a dominant, extroverted, or more submissive attitude. Groups without these modes are rarely included. “For this reason, the source of the differences cannot be determined, as only one of the two conditions may have an effect,” says Robert Korner. Furthermore, nearly all studies to date have been conducted in so-called WEIRD (Western, educated, industrialized, wealthy and democratic) societies, so it is not clear whether the findings can be applied to other cultures. On the other hand, differences between males and females and across different age groups were not significant.
Posture study: Can strong postures improve children’s self-confidence?
Robert Korner et al, Dominance and status: a meta-analysis review of the effects of experimentally induced body position on dependent behavioral, self-report and physiological variables, Psychological Bulletin (2022). doi: 10.1037/bul0000356
Submitted by Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg
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