An erect posture while sitting or standing is indicative of whether people act as though they are in charge, says a new study.
A Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University study finds that positioning oneself in a way that opens up the body and takes up space, triggers a sense of power that produces behavioural changes in a person independent of their actual rank or hierarchical role in an organization.
The team found that posture had a strong effect in making a person think and act in a more powerful way.
"The December 5, 2005 cover of the New Yorker is a classic example for how indicative posture can be in determining whether people act as though they are in charge," said Adam Galinsky.
In the study, one group of participants was asked to place one arm on the armrest of a chair and the other arm on the back of a nearby chair, while also crossing their legs so the ankle of one leg rested on the thigh of the other leg and stretched beyond the leg of the chair.
People in the other group were asked to place their hands under their thighs, drop their shoulders and place their legs together.
This experiment demonstrated only posture activated power-related behaviours.
During various tasks such as a word completion exercise and a blackjack game, participants with open body postures were thinking about more power-related words and generally took more action than those with closed body postures.
Although people in a high-power role reported feeling more powerful than did those in a low-power role, the manipulation of role power had little effect on action.
Galinsky believes the role of powerful postures is important for those seeking new jobs.
"With 1.9 million new jobs on the horizon this year, our research suggests that your posture may be quite literally the way to put your best foot forward in a job interview," said Galinsky.
The study appears in the January 2011 issue of Psychological Science.