Abstract

The literature on
embodied cognition suggests that we take cues from our body positions that can
influence our subjective experience and perception (Strack, Martin, &
Stepper, 1988). The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of
designated power poses on academic-specific self-esteem in university students.

We hypothesize that students who engage in a power posing exercise will have
higher scores on an academic self-esteem survey on average than students who do
not engage in power posing. We tested this hypothesis by randomly assigning
students to a power-pose condition and a no-pose control condition. After completing
the task of their assigned conditions, participants responded to a survey
regarding their confidence to succeed in an academic setting. The results
indicated that there was no significant difference between students who were in
the power-pose condition and students who were in the control group. These
findings contrast many theories of embodied cognition, but carry suggestions
for future replications.

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Keywords:
embodied cognition, power-posing, academic self-esteem, college students

 

 

Self-esteem
in Academia: does power-posing make a difference?

            The
construct of embodied cognition contends that our subjective experience can be
influenced by our posture in the environment (Nair, Sagar, Sollers, Consedine
& Broadbent, 2015). This construct carries interesting implications for the
utility of power posing, which involves the deliberate positioning of the body
to induce feelings of confidence (Carney, Cuddy, & Yap, 2010). In academic
settings where stress is high, it is worthwhile to empirically examine the
benefits, if any, of power-posing on academic related self-esteem. Which we
define as the way one perceives their own confidence and self-efficacy to
overcome challenges within an academic setting.

            A
study conducted by Nair, Sagar, Sollers, Consedine, & Broadbent (2015)
sought to examine the effects of body posture on emotions and behavior in
response to a stressful task. The authors randomly assigned participants to
maintain an upright posture or a slumped posture; and used sophisticated
technology to measure the physiological responses of participants before, during,
and after the stress task. Results indicated that participants who maintained
an upright body posture during the psychological stress task performed better
on average compared to participants who maintained a slumped posture (Nair et
al., 2015). In addition, upright participants reported higher levels of
self-esteem, confidence, positive arousal, and better mood (Nair et al., 2015).

These findings provide supporting evidence for our hypothesis, especially relating
to the effects of posture on feelings of self-efficacy.

            Another
study conducted by Carney, Cuddy, & Yap (2010) tested the effect of
high-power-poses versus low-power-poses on testosterone, feelings of power, and
cortisol levels. The authors randomly assigned participants to a low or high-power
pose group, where participants would hold two poses for one minute each. Saliva
samples were taken from all participants before posing, and shortly after
posing to measure testosterone and cortisol levels. Statistical and biological
results indicated that participants in the high-power pose condition had
increased levels of testosterone, lower cortisol levels, and greater feelings
of power (Carney et al., 2010). These findings carry implications to support
that power-posing is effective for boosting confidence within a stressful
environment.

 Several empirical studies suggest that the
effects of power-posing on perception and physiology are both immediate and
profound (Nair et al., 2015; Carney et al., 2010).  The current study seeks to examine the
effects of power-posing on academic related self-esteem in a sample of
university students. We hypothesize that participants in the power-pose
condition will have higher scores on the Academic Related Self-Esteem Scale (ARSES)
survey compared to participants in the no-pose condition.

Method

Participants & Design

Participants were
48 undergraduates (Males = 12; Females = 36) from a psychology research methods
class who participated in the study for course credit. The majority of
participants held senior class standing (66.7%) and were psychology majors
(95.8%), with a mean age of 23.67 years old (SD = 4.76). The current study utilized a between-subjects design where
participants were randomly assigned to a power-pose condition (N = 30) or a
no-pose control condition (N = 18). Participants completed surveys after
finishing the task of their respective conditions.

Procedure

After being
randomly assigned, participants in the no-pose control condition left the room.

A researcher instructed participants in the control condition to relax however
they felt comfortable for 2 minutes. Participants in the power-pose
experimental condition were shown 5 different images (2 standing, 3 sitting) of
power poses, and chose one from each category to perform. Students held one of
their chosen poses for 1 minute, before assuming their second pose for an
additional minute. After this task was finished, participants in the control
condition re-entered the room. All participants then used desktop computers to complete
the ARSES survey.

Measures

The current
study’s outcome of interest was the mean scores of participants on the Academic
Related Self-Esteem Scale (ARSES) survey, an adapted form of the State
Self-Esteem Scale (SSES; Hetherton & Polivy, 1991). The eight-item survey
assessed participants’ feelings of confidence and self-efficacy in an academic
setting using a 5-point response scale (1 = not at all; 5 = extremely). Current
mood and grade-point average were statistically controlled for as potentially
confounding variables.

 

Results

An
independent-samples t-test revealed
that participants in the power pose condition (M = 3.73, SD = .57)
reported a similar amount of self-esteem as participants in the no-pose control
condition (M = 3.67, SD = .69), t(46) = .37, p = .73.

 

Discussion

            The
current study sought to empirically examine the effects of power-posing on
academic related self-esteem. The results indicated there was no significant difference
between participants’ ARSES score in the power-pose condition and participants
in the control condition. These findings do not support the current study’s
hypothesis, nor do they align with the current literature on embodied
cognition. These findings carry contrasting implications for the debate on the utility
of embodied cognition strategies.

Limitations and Future Directions

While the current
study provided more data on embodied cognition, limitations remain. One
limitation was participants in the control condition accidently viewing the
power-pose instructions when they re-entered the room. This is problematic, as
this may have tipped participants in the no-pose condition to the true purpose
of the study. Another limitation was that participants were already experienced
in taking upper-division classes as juniors and seniors. This could potentially
be a confounding variable since participants may have a higher baseline of
self-confidence compared to a larger population. For future replications, it
may prove valuable to recruit a more diverse sample of students in terms of
gender, class standing, and major to increase the external validity of the
study.

Conclusion

             The utility and validity of embodied cognition
has been a subject of interest to researchers for decades. The current literature
suggests that power-posing can produce significant and immediate benefits when
utilized (Nair et al., 2015; Carney et al., 2010).  The current study offers more insight into the
debate on embodied cognition. The results did not support the hypothesis, but this
may be due to the limitations the current study faced. Though some data
conflicts with power-posing research, it is important to continue to examine
how embodied cognition strategies can be used in everyday life to improve
performance and boost confidence. 

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