This week for my digital story critique I reviewed Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk on How Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are as part of my interest-driven scholarship. I watched this talk originally a few years ago and remember thinking it was really great. It was very interesting to go back and re-watch it and assess it based Jason Ohler’s assessment considerations.
At the beginning of this talk we see a thin attractive blonde woman who introduces herself as a Harvard psychology professor, she appears confident, credible, poised, but nice. First, she offers her audience a gift, “I’m going to give you a free non-tech life hack”, which is a great way to get their’ attention and make them feel like they will get some benefit from this talk. The next thing she does is engage them to assess their own body language. It’s kind of a fun exercise and many people chuckle a little as they recognize that they may not be using very good posture or the most powerful body language.
She sets the stage with a couple of short, humorous, and very effective pieces of video to illustrate her point of how important body language can be to the messages it sends other people and slowly begins to build her case about how it just may be that our own body language might help shape the way we feel about ourselves.
She cites many different research studies conducted on primates and people that point toward her initial hypothesis: powerful people test high in testosterone levels and low in cortisol levels. In the animal kingdom when a male needs to take over the alpha position suddenly, within a few days their testosterone has gone up significantly, and their cortisol goes down significantly. She then presents very convincing findings from research she has personally conducted testing saliva of people before and after power posing and also putting them through a range of different tests to see how risk adverse they are, how well they do in a stressful situation like a job interview. The results are very compelling and she claims to have measured that just with the 2 minute power-pose, people have increased their testosterone (temporarily) by 20% and decreased their cortisol by nearly that much as well.
By the end of the talk we’re pretty convinced that we should probably at least give this “power posing” a try as this small thing we can do might possibly make us feel more powerful and eventually make us happier and more successful, when she surprises us with her personal story which reveals her emotion, passion, and the importance of this research and this message to her. Amy would appear to be kind of person who has probably had it pretty easy in life, as I said, attractive, thin, educated, confident. She reveals that when she was 19 she had a brain injury that resulted in a decrease in her IQ by two standard deviations and how she struggled, worked, and fought to succeed in college and had to fake being confident until she eventually really became confident.
She then ends with a powerful call to action to share this information with everyone you come across to help anyone who can benefit from it.
It is truly a powerful story presented brilliantly.