Yvonne Jansen - Power Poses

How Relevant are Incidental Power Poses for HCI?


The paper

An author version of the article is available here.


The concept of power pose originates from a Psychology study from 2010 which suggested that holding an expansive pose can change hormone levels and increase risk-taking behavior. Follow-up experiments suggested that expansive poses incidentally imposed by the design of an environment lead to more dishonest behaviors. While multiple replication attempts of the 2010 study failed, the follow-up experiments on incidental postures have so far not been replicated. As UI design in HCI can incidentally lead to expansive body postures, we attempted two conceptual replications: we first asked 44 participants to tap areas on a wall-sized display and measured their self-reported sense of power; we then asked 80 participants to play a game on a large touch-screen and measured risk-taking. Based on Bayesian analyses we find that incidental power poses had little to no effect on our measures but could cause physical discomfort. We conclude by discussing our findings in the context of theory-driven research in HCI.

Video of presentation

The article was presented at the CHI 2018 conference in Montréal. Below is a video recording of the talk.

Slides of the presentation

The slides of the presentation can be watched here directly in a browser.


Photo taken by Erik (HASH) Hersman from Orlando - Power pose by Amy Cuddy at PopTech 2011, CC BY 2.0.
In 2010 Dana Carney and her colleagues asserted that "a person can, by assuming two simple 1-min poses, embody power and instantly become more powerful [which] has real-world, actionable implications" (Carney 2010) thereby coining the concept of power poses (see Figure right). Andy Yap and colleagues later identified a set of behaviors such as increased risk-taking or cheating which they showed could be induced through incidental power poses, that is, expansive postures imposed by the design of the environment (Yap 2013). Interface and interaction design can also lead to expansive postures of users. Thus the range of scenarios in HCI which could potentially be influenced through explicit design of incidental postures is wide, ranging from decision making under risk such as control room interfaces in power plants, over education (e.g., Isbister and colleagues' work on game interfaces addressing math anxieties (Isbister2012)), to engaging game design (Bianchi-Berthouze 2007, Bianchi-Berthouze 2013). In a 2016 keynote, Nadia Bianchi-Berthouze (Bianchi-Berthouze 2016) argued that the "affective body is underused in the design of interactive technology despite what it has to offer". Indeed, apart from some isolated studies, the potential relevance of incidental body postures as a design tool in HCI remains unclear.

However, incidental body postures may only be leveraged in HCI if they can be reliably elicited. In 2015, a large-scale replication project (OSC 2015) re-opened the files on 100 published experiments and found that a considerable number of reported effects did not replicate, leading to the so-called "replication crisis" in Psychology. Neither the study by Carney et al. (Carney2010) nor the one by Yap et al. (Yap2013) was among the replicated studies, but multiple high powered and pre-registered studies have since then failed to establish a link between power poses and various behavioral measures (Ranehill 2015, Garrison 2016, Keller 2017, Ronay 2017, Bailey 2017, Bombari 2017, Jackson 2017, Latu 2017, Klaschinski 2017). While a Bayesian meta-analysis of six pre-registered studies (Gronau 2017) provides credible evidence for a small effect of power poses on self-reported felt power (Cohen d ≈ 0.2), the practical relevance of this small effect remains unclear (Jonas 2017).

Examples of incidental postures used in experiments by Yap et al.
It should be noted that all of the failed replications focused on explicitly elicited postures as studied by Carney et al. (Carney2010), that is, participants were explicitly instructed to take on a certain posture and afterwards were tested on various measures. Most relevant to HCI are, however, the experiments by Yap et al. (Yap2013) on incidental power poses which so far appear to have not been replicated or refuted. Thus it remains unclear whether these effects replicate in an HCI context, and we offer the following contributions with this article:


(click to toggle visibility)

A short (and incomplete) history of power pose research

  1. 2010 Carney, Cuddy, and Yap publish Power posing: brief nonverbal displays affect neuroendocrine levels and risk tolerance
  2. 2013 Yap, Wazlawek, Lucas, Cuddy, and Carney publish The Ergonomics of Dishonesty: The Effect of Incidental Posture on Stealing, Cheating, and Traffic Violations
  3. 2015 Ranehill, Dreber, Johannesson, Leiberg, Sul, and Weber publish the first failed replication attempt of Carney 2010 titled Assessing the Robustness of Power Posing: No Effect on Hormones and Risk Tolerance in a Large Sample of Men and Women
  4. 2015 Carney, Cuddy, Yap publish a response to Ranehill et al. titled Review and Summary of Research on the Embodied Effects of Expansive (vs. Contractive) Nonverbal Displays where they collect 33 studies on power posing and analyze the differences between successful and unsuccessful studies. The main take-away is that they suggest that replication failures must be due to moderator variables and that the next step should be to identify relevant moderators.
  5. 2016 A heated online discussion emerges after a Slat article written by Gelman and Fung titled The Power of the “Power Pose” – Amy Cuddy’s famous finding is the latest example of scientific overreach.
  6. Sep 2016 Dana Carney, first author of Carney et al. 2010 publishes a statement on her personal website where she expresses her updated belief that power poses are not real.

Replication Material

The material required to replicate our experiments or to reanalyze our data can be found in the associated github repository.

Highly cited

The article establishing power poses is well cited (more than 750 citations according to Google scholar) and is in 2018 among the 1000 most cited papers on nonvisual nonverbal behavior. Of the total count of citations, at least 29 citations stem from articles published in HCI journals or conferences which indicates that this article has inspired at least some work in HCI. Here is the list of articles citing Carney et al. 2010 and published in HCI journals or conferences:

[1] Aung, M. S., Kaltwang, S., Romera-Paredes, B., Martinez, B., Singh, A., Cella, M., Valstar, M., Meng, H., Kemp, A., Shafizadeh, M., et al. The automatic detection of chronic pain-related expression: requirements, challenges and the multimodal emopain dataset. IEEE transactions on affective computing 7, 4 (2016), 435–451.

[2] Berglund, A., Berglund, E., Siliberto, F., and Prytz, E. Effects of reactive and strategic game mechanics in motion-based games. In Serious Games and Applications for Health (SeGAH), 2017 IEEE 5th International Conference on (2017), IEEE, pp. 1–8.

[3] Bianchi-Berthouze, N. What can body movement tell us about players engagement. Measuring Behavior12 2 (2012), 94–97.

[4] Bianchi-Berthouze, N. The affective body argument in technology design. In Proceedings of the International Working Conference on Advanced Visual Interfaces (2016), ACM, pp. 3–6.

[5] Bianchi-Berthouze, N., and Isbister, K. Emotion and body-based games: Overview and opportunities. In Emotion in Games. Springer, 2016, pp. 235–255.

[6] Cruz Mendoza, R., Bianchi-Berthouze, N., Romero, P., and Lav´ın, G. C. A classification of user experience frameworks for movement-based interaction design. The Design Journal 18, 3 (2015), 393–420.

[7] Dingler, T., Goto, T., Tag, B., and Kunze, K. Ems icons: conveying information by analogy to enhance communication through electrical muscle stimulation. In Proceedings of the 2017 ACM International Joint Conference on Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing and Proceedings of the 2017 ACM International Symposium on Wearable Computers (2017), ACM, pp. 732–739.

[8] Gillies, M. What is movement interaction in virtual reality for? In Proceedings of the 3rd International Symposium on Movement and Computing (2016), ACM, p. 31.

[9] Isbister, K. Emotion and motion: games as inspiration for shaping the future of interface. interactions 18, 5 (2011), 24–27.

[10] Isbister, K., Karlesky, M., Frye, J., and Rao, R. Scoop!: a movement-based math game designed to reduce math anxiety. In CHI’12 extended abstracts on human factors in computing systems (2012), ACM, pp. 1075–1078.

[11] Karlesky, M., and Isbister, K. Designing for the physical margins of digital workspaces: fidget widgets in support of productivity and creativity. In Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interaction (2014), ACM, pp. 13–20.

[12] Karlesky, M., and Isbister, K. Fidget widgets: designing for the physical margins of digital workspaces. In Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interaction (2014), ACM, pp. 301–304.

[13] Karlesky, M., and Isbister, K. Understanding fidget widgets: Exploring the design space of embodied self-regulation. In Proceedings of the 9th Nordic Conference on Human-Computer Interaction (2016), ACM, p. 38.

[14] Karlesky, M., Melcer, E., and Isbister, K. Open sesame: re-envisioning the design of a gesture-based access control system. In CHI’13 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (2013), ACM, pp. 1167–1172.

[15] Labonte-LeMoyne, E., Leger, P.-M., Senecal, S., and Santhanam, R. Physical interaction with technology: kinesiology as a reference discipline for information systems research.

[16] Lindgren, R. Getting into the cue: Embracing technology-facilitated body movements as a starting point for learning. In Learning Technologies and the Body: Integration and Implementation In Formal and Informal Learning Environments. Routledge, 2014, pp. 39–54.

[17] Liu, Y., Chan, H. C., and Jiang, Z. J. Push yourself a bit harder: The impacts of force-based gestures on consumer decisiveness and self-regulation.

[18] Ludden, G. D., van Rompay, T. J., Kelders, S. M., and van Gemert-Pijnen, J. E. How to increase reach and adherence of web-based interventions: a design research viewpoint. Journal of medical Internet research 17, 7 (2015).

[19] Meng, H., Bianchi-Berthouze, N., Deng, Y., Cheng, J., and Cosmas, J. P. Timedelay neural network for continuous emotional dimension prediction from facial expression sequences. IEEE transactions on cybernetics 46, 4 (2016), 916–929.

[20] Rae, I. How Telepresence Robots Shape Communication. PhD thesis, The University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2015. 21] Savva, N., Scarinzi, A., and Bianchi-Berthouze, N. Continuous recognition of player’s affective body expression as dynamic quality of aesthetic experience. IEEE Transactions on Computational Intelligence and AI in games 4, 3 (2012), 199–212.

[22] Semnani-Azad, Z., and Nouri, E. Automatic interpretation of negotiators affect and involvement based on their non-verbal behavior. In International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction (2015), Springer, pp. 520–529.

[23] Shen, Y., Liu, Y., Chan, H. C., Lu, Y., and Wang, D. Embodied persuasion: How holding your smartphone changes your product perception.

[24] Tajadura-Jimenez, A., Basia, M., Deroy, O., Fairhurst, M., Marquardt, N., and ´ Bianchi-Berthouze, N. As light as your footsteps: altering walking sounds to change perceived body weight, emotional state and gait. In Proceedings of the 33rd Annual ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (2015), ACM, pp. 2943–2952.

[25] Tajadura-Jimenez, A., V ´ aljam ¨ ae, A., Bevilacqua, F., and Bianchi-Berthouze, N. ¨ Principles for designing body-centered auditory feedback. The Wiley Handbook of Human Computer Interaction (2018), 371–403.

[26] Taylor, B., Birk, M., Mandryk, R. L., and Ivkovic, Z. Posture training with real-time visual feedback. In CHI’13 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (2013), ACM, pp. 3135–3138.

[27] Wilde, D. Embodying neuroplastic change. In CHI’13 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (2013), ACM, pp. 2267–2276.

[28] Yang, L. The Effects Of Gesture-based Interaction On User Behavior: An Embodied View. PhD thesis, National University of Singapore.

[29] Zabetipour, M., Pishghadam, R., and Ghonsooly, B. The impacts of open/closed body positions and postures on learners moods. Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences 6, 2 S1 (2015), 643.

Warning: include(../footer.php): failed to open stream: No such file or directory in /srv/data/web/vhosts/yvonnejansen.me/htdocs/powerposes.php on line 157

Warning: include(): Failed opening '../footer.php' for inclusion (include_path='.:/usr/share/php:/srv/data/web/includes') in /srv/data/web/vhosts/yvonnejansen.me/htdocs/powerposes.php on line 157