By Ayse Hunt
We’ve all experienced that moment right before a stressful event. Whether it’s in anticipation of a test, a big presentation or a performance, time can seem to stretch on and on when we are nervous. Of course, adequate preparation is vital to a successful performance i.e. if you don’t study for your finals it doesn’t matter what kind of preparation you do right before taking them, you probably won’t do very well. However, studies have shown that doing a “power pose” right before a high stakes social event such as a test or interview can improve overall personal presentation and confidence.
So what is the power pose? In short, it is any position where you take up more space than normal. It could be standing tall with your arms above your head. It could be standing with your feet a shoulder width apart and your arms firmly planted on your hips. It could be waving your arms around in circles while jumping up and down, if that’s what you’re into. According to one Harvard study, a power pose is anything that embodies “an open, expansive posture”.
I admit, when I first heard about the power pose I thought it sounded like a load of new age crap purported by someone who was trying to sell copies of their self-published book on stress management. But a little bit of research has shown me that there is tons of science behind why the power pose actually works.
Humans and primates use non-verbal communication known as body language to reflect their power and social stance. Making your body take up more space, especially if you are reaching upward and are elongating your body reads to others as a display of dominance, which in turn causes you to feel more powerful. And beware, there is such a thing as a low power pose. The same Harvard study mentioned earlier cited slouching in a chair or hunching over a cell phone as examples of low power poses.
In an experiment done by researchers at UC Berkeley, they asked participants to undergo a video-taped mock job interview. Half the participants were told to do a high power pose beforehand while the other half were asked to do a low power pose. The study showed that the participants who did a high power pose before the interview delivered their answers better, even if the content of the responses was the same as other participants.
I challenge everyone reading this to give the power pose a try during finals week. It can feel a little silly the first time you do it, and recruiting a couple friends or classmates to do it with you can help you feel a little less like a crazy person. But even if it is just for ten seconds in bathroom right before your math final, try to inhabit an expansive, open posture in a way that feels natural. And if all else fails, you can always do what I do before taking my first AP test of the year: jam out to Eye of the Tiger while screaming/singing the lyrics.