A New Replication Suggests 'Power Posing' Is a Waste of Time, but Here's Why You'll Still Be Told to Do It for Years to Come
The second most-watched TED Talk of all time has been debunked.
Simon Oxenham covers the best and the worst from the world of psychology and neuroscience. Formerly writing with the pseudonym "Neurobonkers", Simon has a history of debunking dodgy scientific research and tearing apart questionable science journalism in an irreverent style. Simon has written and blogged for publishers including: The Psychologist, Nature, Scientific American and The Guardian. His work has been praised in the New York Times and The Guardian and described in Pearson's Textbook of Psychology as "excoriating reviews of bad science/studies”.
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Last year on this blog, we looked in some depth at the widely reported research that suggested posing in a powerful position can influence hormones and behavior. The research made a huge splash, featuring as the subject of the second most-popular TED talk of all time with over 25 million views. But according to a far larger attempted replication of this research recently published in Psychological Science, the effects are all in the mind.
While the original study, which linked power posing to changes in levels of cortisol and testosterone, had only 42 participants, the replication used 200 participants and, crucially, a design in which the experimenter was blinded and the instructions were given by a computer, preventing any possibility for the experimenter's unconscious cues to bias the participants. In the replication, power posing did make people say they felt more powerful but had no effect on hormones or actual behavior.
In a detailed response by the original researchers, it is also pointed out that the replication involved no deception, while nearly every study on power posing involved carefully deceiving the participants with a cover story. This is arguably a somewhat moot point however, as the point of power poses is for individuals to improve their self-confidence by putting themselves in a power pose before engaging in an interview or other stressful task. If the effect only works when we are tricked into it, then that would make power posing an interesting phenomenon, but useless in practice.
The original authors also suggest a number of other reasons the replication may have failed: Most of the original power pose findings were tested in a social context, with real experimenters and participants engaging in social tasks. The replication, however, removed all interactions with other people so that they could not unknowingly bias the participants. Another change from the original experiment was that in the replication, the power poses were held for six minutes instead of three minutes, which could have left participants feeling awkward or uncomfortable rather than powerful.
To their great credit, the original authors have made all of their materials fully available so that anyone who wants to can conduct further replications to try to pin down what, if anything, is really behind the original power pose findings.
At this point, however, according to a detailed statistical analysis by DataColada of the statistical significance of all power posing replications to date, the power posing effect seems too weak to be worth engaging in. Will that stop people? Probably not. While the original TED talk has 25 million views and the original paper countless citations, research shows that original scientific findings are cited 17 times more than their rebuttals and in the rare instances rebuttals are cited, "the citing papers on average had neutral views of the original article, and 8 percent actually believed that the rebuttal agreed with the original article." Similarly, as we have discussed previously, news stories (like this one) which rebut original stories are only ever shared a tiny fraction of the amount the original stories — I, for one, am not holding my breath for 17 million hits. So real or not, power posing is likely here to stay as a prominent feature of your Facebook feed and water-cooler-chit-chats for years to come.
Carney D.R., Cuddy A.J.C. & Yap A.J. (2010). Power Posing: Brief Nonverbal Displays Affect Neuroendocrine Levels and Risk Tolerance, Psychological Science, 21 (10) 1363-1368. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0956797610383437
Explore how alcohol affects your brain, from the first sip at the bar to life-long drinking habits.
- Alcohol is the world's most popular drug and has been a part of human culture for at least 9,000 years.
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If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx a team of DNA sequencers has figured that out.
- A team at UMass Amherst recently sequenced the genome of the Canadian lynx.
- It's part of a project intending to sequence the genome of every vertebrate in the world.
- Conservationists interested in the Canadian lynx have a new tool to work with.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx, I can now—as of this month—point you directly to the DNA of a Canadian lynx, and say, "That's what makes a lynx a lynx." The genome was sequenced by a team at UMass Amherst, and it's one of 15 animals whose genomes have been sequenced by the Vertebrate Genomes Project, whose stated goal is to sequence the genome of all 66,000 vertebrate species in the world.
Sequencing the genome of a particular species of an animal is important in terms of preserving genetic diversity. Future generations don't necessarily have to worry about our memory of the Canadian Lynx warping the way hearsay warped perception a long time ago.
Artwork: Guillaume le Clerc / Wikimedia Commons
13th-century fantastical depiction of an elephant.
It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.
But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats.
John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."
What does DNA have to do with land conservation strategies? Consider the fact that the food found in a landscape, the toxins found in a landscape, or the exposure to drugs can have an impact on genetic activity. That potential change can be transmitted down the generative line. If you know exactly how a lynx's DNA is impacted by something, then the environment they occupy can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the lynx and any other creature that happens to inhabit that particular portion of the earth.
Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, a move that caught scientists by surprise, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.
The exploding popularity of the keto diet puts a less used veggie into the spotlight.
- The cauliflower is a vegetable of choice if you're on the keto diet.
- The plant is low in carbs and can replace potatoes, rice and pasta.
- It can be eaten both raw and cooked for different benefits.
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