By the Way, You Don’t Have to Stop Power Posing

By
Photo: ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images

Perhaps you’ve heard: Power posing is dead, killed off by one of its own inventors. Late last month, Dana Carney, an author on the original 2010 paper in Psychological Science that introduced the confidence-boosting Wonder Woman–style stance to the world, said she no longer had “any faith” in the posture. She wrote on her website, in bold and underlined for good measure, “I do not believe that ‘power pose’ effects are real.”

And yet: Long live power posing. In his most recent column at The Guardian, psychology writer Oliver Burkeman puts forth a convincing counterpoint to Carney’s argument, which is, in short: So what? “What’s weird about the gleeful debunking of power poses is … obviously they work,” he writes. “For me, I mean. Before a public talk or similarly daunting situation, if I remember to stand up straight and broaden my chest, I feel more confident.” There is also, surely, a kind of feedback loop happening here: If you appear more confident, people will treat you accordingly — which, in turn, may result in some real, live confidence, all your very own.

It’s true, as Carney and others before her have noted, that when researchers have attempted to redo those original experiments recounted in that 2010 paper, they’ve come up with lackluster results. As far as the science is concerned, in other words, no, power posing does not “work.” More to the point, it’s important that psychology researchers continue to double-check each other in this manner, as it’s the only way forward if we truly want to better understand human behavior. But the Guardian column gets at something that we touched on briefly in a chat about the power-posing dustup: You don’t need to seek permission from the great and powerful Science for everything you do. Really, you don’t.

As Burkeman phrases it, “Wisdom results from a mixture of common sense, experience, and research,” he writes. “Nobody lives their lives solely in accordance with the findings of science. Nor should they.” If power posing before a scary meeting or job interview has helped you, by god, keep right on power posing. If, for that matter, you find that faking a smile makes you a teensy bit happier, then keep right on smiling. It is likely only a placebo effect, true. But here is a secret about placebos: They kinda work