Is there any psychological benefit to the superman pose?

superman pose
© Roman Samborskyi

Can the superman pose really affects confidence and behaviour, as implied in popular culture? Scientists, working in an international collaboration, have the answer

According to analysis by the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU), the University of Bamberg and The Ohio State University, standing in a dominant upright position may have a positive effect on how confident we feel.

The legend of posing like superman

Although a number of smaller studies on this phenomenon have been published, until now there has not been a detailed report on the effects of what is colloquially known as: the superman pose.

This has not hindered the legend of the superman pose, it has still continued to spread and even offered as pre-exam/assessment advice to student. Many believe that by standing straight up like superman with hands on hips and shoulders back for two whole minutes before undertaking a difficult task you are likely to feel overconfident and therefore succeed.

The power of posture in psychology

Posture and body language are popular tools used in psychology.

“In therapy, they can help people feel secure and experience positive feelings,” says psychologist Robert Körner from MLU and the University of Bamberg.

Published in the Psychological Bulletin the team evaluated data from around 130 experiments with a total of 10,000 participants.

The research of power posing deals with the extent to which very bold poses can influence a person’s feelings and self-worth. A common example is the victory pose with outstretched arms which, according to several studies, is meant to increase self-confidence.

“However, many of these studies are inconclusive and were conducted with small samples. Moreover, studies sometimes have contradictory results,” adds Körner.

Therefore, the team conducted a quantitative review in which they combined the data of around 130 experiments from published and unpublished studies. Complex statistical methods were used to re-assess the data on nearly 10,000 people. The researchers wanted to find out whether posture influences a person’s self-perception, behaviour and hormone levels.

© Albertshakirov

Superman fuelled confidence can create positive self-perception

The team found a connection between an upright posture and power posing and a more positive self-perception.

“A dominant pose can, for example, make you feel more self-confident,” said personality researcher Professor Astrid Schütz from the University of Bamberg.

A dominant pose can, for example, make you feel more self-confident

The team found a similar correlation with behaviour, for example task persistence, antisocial behaviour. On the other hand, the assertion that certain poses can boost the production of physiological effects, for example hormones, such as testosterone and cortisol, which had been claimed in previous research, was not supported.

“The findings on the physiological effects of power posing are not robust and have not been replicated by independent research groups,” said Schütz.

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