Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

A new study investigates the impact of power posing - the holding of wide and expansive postures - on self-reported feelings of power and the subsequent effect on paranoia.

Split image with the person standing in a power pose on the left and a neutral pose on the right.

Doctoral Student, Poppy Brown, discusses her recent paper, which is based on a double-blind randomised controlled study comparing power posing to neutral posing in advance of entering neutral social situations in virtual reality. One hundred people with current paranoia, and 50 without paranoia participated. Here's what she found out...

Why DID you do a study on power posing?

Power posing has been included in self-confidence interventions for paranoia, however, its effects have never actually been tested, a gap which I aimed to fill. 

Power posing is a controversial topic, with many of the original research findings having been discredited. For example, it is no longer believed that holding power poses can cause hormonal changes in the body. What has been more consistently shown, is that power posing can increase self-reported feelings of power. Individuals with paranoia often feel inferior to other people, with their feelings of vulnerability growing on these kinds of negative self-beliefs. Any intervention that can increase positive self-belief, including feelings of power and high social-rank, is likely to be beneficial for helping these individuals tackle challenging situations.

Were you surprised by the findings?

In those reporting current paranoia there were no significant group (power vs neutral posing) differences in feelings of power or paranoia at the end of the study. Conversely, in those without paranoia, there was a small significant group difference in feelings of power, with those who power posed reporting slightly higher levels of power than those who posed neutrally.

To check whether the different findings across the two participant groups was explained by the presence or absence of paranoia I ran a moderation analysis. I wondered whether, for example, power posing didn’t work for people with paranoia because it made them feel more exposed and vulnerable, rather than powerful. However, paranoia at baseline did not moderate the effects of the intervention on feelings of power. When combining both participant groups, there was an overall significant effect of power posing on feelings of power, though very small. 

what do these results Tell US?

It seems that power posing can have a very small effect on feelings of power, although because the effect is so small a study does need to be highly powered to detect it. What is interesting is that the group differences arose as much from a decrease in feelings of power in the control (neutral pose) group, as an increase in power in the power posing group. Past research reporting larger effects of power posing on feelings of power has always compared power posing to contractive posing (holding small and constricted poses). It seems possible, therefore, that past studies have actually been finding a negative effect of contractive poses, rather than a positive effect of power posing. Either way, power posing had no significant effects on reducing paranoia, thus is unlikely to be the most helpful therapeutic intervention to pursue.

 

Read the full paper, Power posing for paranoia: A double-blind randomised controlled experimental test using virtual reality.

 

NIHR OXFORD HEALTH BIOMEDICAL RESEARCH CENTRE NEWS

Please follow the link below to read the news on the NIHR BRC website.

Similar stories

Oxford researchers part of major UK initiative to understand chronic pain

Oxford pain researchers are playing a major role in a new multi-million pound research programme launched by a consortium of funders, including UKRI, Versus Arthritis, Eli Lilly and the Medical Research Foundation.

Anxiety Disorders Among Children, Assessment and Working with Families

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health disorders among children, yet there is limited guidance on the process of assessing child anxiety disorders and sharing diagnostic outcomes with families.

Landmark New Clinical Trial Shows Benefits of Automated Virtual Reality (VR) Treatment for Severe Psychological Problems

The gameChange automated VR program is designed to treat agoraphobia in patients with psychosis. In the largest ever clinical trial of virtual reality for mental health, gameChange especially helped people whose anxiety had previously left them virtually housebound.

UK-Japanese Collaboration Researches Mental Health Challenges Faced by Young People and their Families

Dr Simona Skripkauskaite, Departments of Psychiatry and Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford, is the UK lead for one of the ten collaborative research projects jointly awarded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS), to address the challenges presented by the global pandemic.

Department of Psychiatry Recognition Awards

Today we announce the prize winners of the first Department of Psychiatry Recognition Awards. One award is designed to offer early career researchers (ECRs) the opportunity to showcase their work, motivations and aspirations for research into mental health. Alongside this we launch the 'Good Citizen' award, where all department members have been able to make nominations.

Hearing Aid Use Linked to Slower Decline in Thinking Skills

A new study, co-funded by Dementias Platform UK (DPUK), has found that hearing loss increased the risk of a precursor to dementia called mild cognitive impairment, but this increased risk is not present in people who wear hearing aids.