Matter Over Mind

How Important Is Body Language?


Power Poses

Nick Feldman, Cactus Writer

How often do we think about our own body language, our own “nonverbals” (nonverbal cues that we show the outside world)?  And more importantly, how much do these nonverbals affect the way we feel and the way other people think of us?  According to Amy Cuddy, in the TED Talk “Amy Cuddy: Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are,” our nonverbal cues and body language determine a LOT of the way we are perceived and, most importantly, the way we perceive ourselves.

According to Cuddy, even the way we stand can determine how we feel.  She describes so-called “power poses,” which are poses that make us appear to be powerful.  For instance, this includes standing tall, straight, with our hands on our hips. Such a pose can make a room full of people perceive us as being powerful.  In addition to this, research she has found shows that people who routinely have posture that includes power poses have more testosterone and less cortisol (the hormone linked to causing stress).  Both of these hormones are linked to powerful people in general.

People with higher amounts of testosterone and lower amounts of cortisol tend to be more powerful figures, and there is a connection to their body language.  A study conducted by Cuddy’s colleague found that even people who do not naturally exhibit power poses can increase their testosterone and lower their cortisol by forcing themselves to use such poses.  This also has an effect on the way we actually feel about ourselves.  After performing acts of body language that are considered and viewed as powerful, we feel more powerful ourselves.

Conversely, if we stand with poor posture, sit crouched or exhibit other signs of weakness, we tend to feel weaker and be perceived as weak.  These are split second judgments that people subconsciously make on a daily basis.

And this does not only include the way we stand.  According to Cuddy, judgment of political candidates’ faces passed within the first second can determine the outcome of political races. Even when muted, watching people’s body language on television can create judgment as to what we think of these people. “Our thoughts, feelings and physiology” can be affected by our own body language. Evening the raising of one’s hand can affect the way we feel and are perceived.

This exists in the animal kingdom as well, which makes sense considering we are simply animals ourselves.

So what can we take away from this? In the end, we care about what people think of us, and we care about the way we think of ourselves.  This means that we can create our own image by simply manipulating our bodies, the way we stand, our facial expressions; this can lead to us feeling more powerful, confident and assertive.  Matter over mind.