Power Poses [The Power of Presence]

posted in: Reviews | 0

When it comes to power poses and assertiveness, the whole concept reminds me of the chicken and the egg; you know the infamous question of which came first.

I was briefly introduced to a couple of the power poses when I was taking my certification classes to be a craniosacral therapist. The idea was fun and endearing. However, in the mist of information overload during the duration of the course (while I remembered the poses), I didn’t recall the information shared about them, nor did I care.


Always Reading

It is no secret, and I would even venture to say it is common knowledge, I love reading (or listening to books),

When it comes to listening to audiobooks, car rides are the optimum time to do so. My family and I live in the country where a trip into town is a minimum of 30 minutes one way. Likewise, visiting my best friend in California is a 6-hour ride, my sons in Colorado, 9. This leaves me a lot of time to indulge in a favorite pastime.


I started reading a new book in early December called Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges by Amy Cuddy.

Wouldn’t you know it, one of the section was on power poses.

Basically, the question posed was this: do assertive people adopt more assertive-type postures, or does confident posturing affect behavior?

The answer was yes…and yes.

The scientific information presented was extensive.

The Controversy

Let me preface that this new theory has some detractors who call it pseudoscience. In the book, the evidence presented by Dr. Amy Cuddy was compelling. However, since that time (the book was published 2010), other scientists have said they were not able to replicate the original experiments, an occurrence which is not all that unusual.

As a matter of fact, I wanted to share this quote from an article I read:

Years ago, someone asked John Maddox how much of what his prestigious science journal Nature printed was wrong. “All of it,” the renowned editor quickly replied. “That’s what science is about — new knowledge constantly arriving to correct the old.” Maddox wasn’t implying that science was bunk; he was saying that it’s only as good as the current available evidence, and as more data pours in, it’s inevitable that our answers change. (1)


Power Poses
Picture Attribution: Erik (HASH) Hersman 


Power poses Theory

I would venture to assert that, like with anything else, the power poses theory will work for some and be a flub for others. Despite the controversy, I find the theory fascinating and not without merit.

In the human world, as well as in the animal kingdom, body language is very meaningful. How we position ourselves is important. Proper posturing is taught to first responders (police officers for example) and athletes as well as many other branches of society for good reasons. Even animals (like dogs) pick up on human posturing as they do other dogs’ body language.

For these reasons, I am willing to give the theory of power posing a try. It doesn’t cost a thing, and it is harmless; it either works, or it doesn’t. No harm no foul.

Yes, some recent studies say its bunk. But, guess what? I can find opposing theories on just about any “scientific” (or not) subject. Controversy does make the world go round at times.


I, for one, found the book fascinating albeit a tad heavy on the science. It appears that since the publishing of the new research (the one which could not replicate the results of the original experiments), Amy Cuddy has born the brunt of many detractors, some less than kind in their criticisms. I would even say, bullies have come out of the woodwork.

I cannot speak for her science as I don’t personally know the woman, and  I can’t even to begin to assert her motives, her methods, nor her character.

In Good Company

If I recall correctly (and I do), Amy is in good company. Throughout history, others have been in her shoes many times.

Often new ideas are rejected by the scientific community for decades before they are eventually accepted. The two ideas which stick in my mind the most at this moment are the theories that bacteria cause ulcers, and that germs caused childbed fever.

Doctor Ignaz Semmelweis discovered the latter, the year was 1846. He instituted mandatory hand washing in his hospital, and the mortality rate abruptly dropped. You’d think he became an instant hero, not so. The benefits of hand washing did not become widely accepted until Louis Pasteur in the late 1800s (after doctor Semmelweis’ passing).

The former was accepted in 2005, twenty years after doctors Barry J. Marshall and J. Robin Warren first presented it. They also suffered ridicule since, at the time, scientific minds believed bacteria could not live in the presence of an acidic environment (like in the stomach). By the way, they received a Nobel Prize for this discovery.

I could go on, but mercifully will not.


Power Posing: Conclusion

The entire concept makes a lot of sense to me solely based on the (albeit limited) information I know about body language. In the end, you must decide for yourself if power poses make sense for you or not.





  • http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2017/10/did_power_posing_guru_amy_cuddy_deserve_her_public_shaming.html
  • https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/failure-is-moving-science-forward/ (1)
  • http://tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/23743603.2017.1309876?src=recsys
  • http://senseaboutscience.org/activities/2013-john-maddox-prize/
  • https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/01/12/375663920/the-doctor-who-championed-hand-washing-and-saved-women-s-lives
  • http://www.methodquarterly.com/2014/11/handwashing/
  • http://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifestyle/6-world-changing-ideas-that-were-originally-rejected.html

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