All About Power Poses: How Striking A Super Hero Pose Positively Effects Your Brain

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The psychology world is all abuzz with what us cosplay geeks knew all along:

Striking your cosplay characters famous power pose doesn’t just make you look like a badass, it makes you biologically feel like a badass too.

This new discovery has got businessmen and politicians nationwide hiding in closets to take a moment to pose like Superman and Wonder Woman before public speaking, heading into meetings, or just to give the start of their workday some extra oomph.

It all started in 2012 when social psychologist Amy Cuddy revealed her research on Power Poses in her speech, “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are”. This sparked a flurry of people – primarily in the business world – flipping out over this free, low-tech and highly effective life hack, and a frenzy of studies and reports on its effectiveness.

It’s crazy fascinating and it verifies what I’ve known all along.. the geeks have had it right from the start.

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The Brain Science of Power Poses

From a neurobiological perspective, certain postures and physical movements can’t help but generate emotional discharges in the brain that represent subjective feelings associated with the action.

Intentional motor behaviors such as power posing, getting in a fighting stance or spell casting poses, directly effect the limbic and autonomic systems, both of which are involved in creating mood and emotion.

Deliberate poses that differ from your normal posture draw attention to itself in your brain, as being outside of the norm. The oddness of the new powerful, aggressive, or graceful stance attracts the attention of the amygdala, which serves as a kind of watch-dog for your brain. Although the amygdala is primarily looking for signs of opportunity and danger, the pose captures it’s attention.

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Once the amygdala has a sustained focus (after you have held the pose for 30 seconds or more) the brain starts to respond by sparking a hyper-quiescent state to the same degree as it would when electrically stimulated.

Autonomic activity sets off the start of emotional response. If you continue to hold the pose (most studies recommend 2 minutes is sufficient) the resulting emotional state is augmented by the hypothalamus, which, when stimulated by the increased arousal activity, sparks positive psychological states of confidence, happiness, power, calm and control.

This may account for the “shy introverted cosplayer with an alter ego” phenomenon. Not only does the costume and persona grant a security blanket for those who would normally faint at the thought of being surrounded by hundreds of otaku paparazzi with cameras, but the power pose being held for 2+ minutes for that stream of relentless, “Just one more photo, please!” is actually giving the cosplayer a healthy boost of confidence.

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Benefits of Power Posing

Striking a powerful, expansive pose doesn’t just shift your mood – it actually changes a person’s hormones and behavior, just as if you really do have the power you are projecting.

To my cosplay friends: Ever posed for cosplay photography and then had that intoxicating feeling of BEING your character? While still being firmly grounded in reality, you feel every bit the super hero, warlock, wizard, Jedi or street fighter that you’re dressed up to be?

According to Dr. Dana Carney, an assistant professor at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, striking a powerful pose can trick your mind into feelings of power, reduce symptoms of stress and increase testosterone levels, which tends to boost confidence.

Studies have shown that the higher levels of testosterone, like a domino effect, then lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol. These physiological changes are linked to better performance and more confident, assertive behavior.

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Studies also showed that subject participants who struck power poses for two minutes were more likely to take a gamble when given the chance. Some 86% of power posers risked losing $2 they were given in return for a 50-50 chance of doubling it, compared with 60% of non-posing participants who took the bet, according to the study published in the journal Psychological Science.

Power posing is also linked to improved performance. In another study published last year, led by Amy J.C. Cuddy, an associate professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, participants who struck power poses for several minutes before beginning a mock job interview received better reviews and were more likely to be chosen for hire.

What’s even cooler? Researchers are saying that the effects of a two minute power pose linger long after a person returns to a normal, relaxed stance. The effects of one power pose can give you a “power high” for hours afterwards!

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How You Can Use Power Poses

So once again, we learn that the geeks shall inherit the Earth. We’re the badest of the bad, with high profile business shmucks stumbling all over themselves to do in private what we proudly do publicly at the local Comic Con. (Or Ihop. Or shopping mall. Or public park. Or wherever, really.)

But harnessing the power of Wonder Woman doesn’t have to come but once a convention. You can add power posing to any daily routine, or find a moment to try harnessing this power before entering a new situation, approaching an uncomfortable task, or meeting new people.

I’ve taken to adding a few poses – namely, the Wonder Woman and an Up Up and Away pose – to my morning stretching routine. Not only does it stretch out muscles and help wake me up, but it gives me a moment to focus on my breathing, clear my thoughts and revel in feeling like the badass that I am.

Have you cosplayed before and experienced the power posing high? Do you plan on giving power posing outside of cosplay a try? Talk to me! ^_^

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Cosplay and Cosplay Photography Credits:

Wonder Woman cosplay made and modeled by Pink Bunny. Photography by cosplayshots.com.

Supergirl cosplay by Alice In The TARDIS. Photography by Toshiyasu Morita.

Lady Sif cosplay made and modeled by Domestic Geek Girl. (That’s me!) Photography by my handsome husband. (See the full photoshoot here.)

Trigun cosplay made and modeled by my handsome husband Jonathan Freeman. (See the full Trigun photoshoot here.) Photography by Domestic Geek Girl. (See all our cosplays here.) 

Fem Jane cosplay by Christina Tellifson. Photography by Eurobeat Kasumi Photography.

Jack Sparrow cosplay by Darth Sparrow. Photography by Domestic Geek Girl. (See the full photoshoot here.)

Yuna Braska Cosplay by Neeka Cosplay. Photography by Domestic Geek Girl.

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Gingi Freeman
Gingi Freeman
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Gingi is a photographer, cosplayer, amateur chef, crazy cat lady, anime otaku, bookworm, generic geek, world traveler, conservative Christian, homeschooler, devoted military wife and stay at home new mother of two little girls.

Gingi blogs about anything and everything that is relevant to being a supermom, stay at home wife, homeschooler and geek girl! You can contact her at gingifreeman@gmail.com or via the contact form on her website at www.domesticgeekgirl.com

Gingi Freeman

Gingi is a photographer, cosplayer, amateur chef, crazy cat lady, anime otaku, bookworm, generic geek, world traveler, conservative Christian, homeschooler, devoted military wife and stay at home new mother of two little girls. Gingi blogs about anything and everything that is relevant to being a supermom, stay at home wife, homeschooler and geek girl! You can contact her at gingifreeman@gmail.com or via the contact form on her website at www.domesticgeekgirl.com

14 thoughts on “All About Power Poses: How Striking A Super Hero Pose Positively Effects Your Brain

  • 7 January, 2014 at 10:10 pm
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    This is definitely a real thing! I’ve seen it happen, in every instance of watching cosplayers (usually my own kids and acquired kids). But the fun metamorphosis comes when I watched my husband, who does not like to dress up for Halloween, (and becomes bored with walking the convention floor) get into the fun. He not only dressed up, but took part in a photo shoot, and then dressed up for a group cosplay at WonderCon in SF. It was fun to watch him ‘strike a pose’! He was totally into it by the end of the day! It’s also interesting to see shy young people who are dressed in similar costumes (ie Joker to my younger daughter’s Harley Quinn), seemingly ‘blossom’ when they are encouraged to ‘strike a pose’, but the lights really come on when other people see them together and start snapping pix! I thought one mom was going to bust for pride at her obviously shy daughter looking all confident and happy as she interacted in poses with my girl. It’s like that with all ages too…Having only done one cosplay, I’ve felt it too. Back when the kids were little and I was teaching costume workshops, I KNOW I’d have never been able to do public speaking if I weren’t in costume. Just being dressed as a ‘market woman’ who had to deal with her business and the people she ‘sold’ to, made me feel more empowered, but when I’d stand with hands on my hips, calling out to passers by at our game booth,, I’d stand up straighter and just have more confidence. I’ve looked at most of the photos of me that I like and barring the ones with my new precious granddaughter Tessa, the one’s that I like the most are of me in costume, standing tall and feeling good about myself. So, I know there is something to this study. I’d be curious to see how it might feel when done purposefully, alone and NOT in costume…I suppose it might be like muscle memory for a cosplayer…but how might it ‘feel’ for the average Joe? Everyone who’s dressed up at Halloween and felt that boost might actually have been getting it from the ‘pose’…how cool would it be to ‘turn that on’ at will? I think it’s worth a try. 🙂

    Reply
    • 8 January, 2014 at 2:40 pm
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      Yeah, I agree with everything you said. It cracks me up that Jonathan still thinks it’s a hoax. Although after reading my post he seemed a little unsure. Persuasive Gingi is persuasive! hehehehe… 😉

      Reply
  • 7 January, 2014 at 11:23 pm
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    Officially striking my Kim Possible poses before every speaking event and on camera moment!

    Reply
    • 8 January, 2014 at 2:41 pm
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      Doooo it! And send me pictures, haha! (I am actually thinking of installing a photo gallery so readers can upload pix of their cosplays and such.. would that be something cool or lame? *ponders*)

      Reply
  • 8 January, 2014 at 5:20 pm
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    Hello there!
    I’ve nominated you for not one, but two awards! The wordpress family award and the reader appreciation award are yours for the taking.
    Check out my last post to read all about it
    Congratulations and happy blogging!
    Thelonelylion x

    Reply
    • 9 January, 2014 at 2:48 pm
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      Awwww, thank you dear!! You spoil me!!

      Reply
  • 8 January, 2014 at 11:29 pm
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    I definitely know this is real! I dressed up a zombie from TWD for Halloween (It was my first time trick-or-treating EVER) and I was nervous until I got into it. I was groaning, drooling zombie blood, shuffling, lurching and all sorts of zombie stuff. Each time someone commented on my act it felt great. Just acting like a zombie in general felt awesome. BTW: I love your Lady Sif costume 😉

    Reply
    • 9 January, 2014 at 2:30 pm
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      I always called it “The Cosplay High” before reading the brain science behind it. It makes soooo much sense to me now. One of the reasons I state when people ask me why I cosplay is, “Because it feels awesome!” lol

      Reply
    • 9 January, 2014 at 2:30 pm
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      And thanks for the compliment on Lady Sif! It’s one of my cooler costumes, lol. I want to start doing more “warrior chick” types…

      Reply
  • 9 January, 2014 at 2:24 am
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    Great post.

    One small criticism from a grammar nut who sometimes makes mistakes.

    I think you mean “affect” in the title.

    The word “effect” is both a noun and a verb. The noun “effect” means “result” and refers to the consequences an action or event has

    The effect her father’s death had on her was to throw her into a deep depression.

    The word “affect” is a verb, meaning “to influence.”

    Her father’s death affected her by throwing her into a deep depression.

    The verb “effect” means “to bring about,” “to accomplish.”

    He effected his escape with a rope made of strips of his sheet.

    Examples:

    • Nineteenth-century cartoonist Bernhard Gillam’s first attempt at oil painting was a dismal failure. When he was eighteen years old, he painted a battle between the Aztec Native Americans and the Spanish explorers. The painting was filled with dead and dying soldiers, but when exhibited at the Brooklyn Academy of Fine Arts as number 93, it did not produce the seriously dramatic EFFECT Mr. Gillam wanted. A reviewer in the Brooklyn Eagle wrote, “The sensation of the hour is number 93. There was never anything funnier than the dying men in 93, unless it is the men who are already dead. Don’t fail to see it; it’s the greatest show on earth!” Mr. Gillam used to stand near his painting, listening to people laugh at what he had meant to be a deadly serious painting.

    • Sometimes the board of education trusts students more than the principal trusts them. In 1974, Priscilla Marco wrote an article for her New York high school newspaper. The article listed instances of censorship of the school newspaper and pointed out that students had not been given copies of a board of education pamphlet describing their rights. However, the principal refused to let her article be printed. Ms. Marco contacted school authorities about the censorship; she also contacted the American Civil Liberties Union. Eventually, the school chancellor ordered that Ms. Marco’s article be published, but even then the school principal refused to allow it to be published. Therefore, the board of education printed a special edition of the student newspaper which contained discussions of the First Amendment and how it AFFECTS young people, as well as both Ms. Marco’s original article and an updated, revised version. On June 23, 1975, protected by security guards, members of the board of education entered Ms. Marco’s school—the Long Island City High School—and passed out copies of the newspaper.

    Reply
    • 9 January, 2014 at 2:35 pm
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      LOL, it’s funny you mention that.. I actually agonized over the effect and affect in the title. Even Google searched it to see which was more grammatically relevant. (Not even joking.) Now I know who to come to for any future questions. 😉

      Reply
      • 9 January, 2014 at 3:47 pm
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        I am a former English teacher who tries not to be obnoxious about grammar mistakes.

        Reply

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