Social psychologist Amy Cuddy, an associate professor at Harvard Business School, uses experimental methods to investigate how people judge each other and themselves. Her research suggests that judgments along two critical trait dimensions – warmth/trustworthiness and competence/power – shape social interactions, determining such outcomes as who gets hired and who doesn’t, when we are more or less likely to take risks, why we admire, envy, or disparage certain people, elect politicians, or even target minority groups for genocide.
Cuddy’s recent work focuses on how we embody and express these two traits, linking our body language to our hormone levels, our feelings, and our behavior. Her latest research illuminates how “faking” body postures that convey competence and power (“power posing”) – even for as little as two minutes -- changes our testosterone and cortisol levels, increases our appetite for risk, causes us to perform better in job interviews, and generally configures our brains to cope well in stressful situations. In short, as David Brooks summarized the findings, “If you act powerfully, you will begin to think powerfully.”