Using a few simple tweaks to body language, Harvard researcher Amy Cuddy discovers ways to help people become more powerful.
Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 13, 2013
Using a few simple tweaks to body language, Harvard researcher Amy Cuddy discovers ways to help people become more powerful.
Posted by The Situationist Staff on February 27, 2013
By Soledad de Lemus, Russell Spears, & Miguel Moya wrote a terrific post on SPSP Blog about the mystery and meaning of the smile. Here are some excerpts:
We smile when we feel happy, but smiles are more than just the outward display of an inner emotion. We are far more likely to smile when we are with other people because a smile is a message: just one more way for people to communicate information to and establish social ties with other people.
A smile, though, sometimes means more than just “I am happy.” Just as many species bare their teeth to signal their dominance and rank, smiles exchanged among humans serve an interpersonal, regulatory function. In our research we wanted to understand how smiles, which usually serve to signal positive affiliation, also define status in the social hierarchy when the smile is coupled with other nonverbal information (e.g., posture). Specifically, we studied women’s nonverbal reaction to a man’s smile: will she, in addition to smiling back, also display signs of submissiveness, such as downcast eyes or a narrowing posture?
For social psychologists interested in gender, patronizing and paternalistic forms of discrimination have become a key focus of research in recent years. There are good reasons for this. Forms of prejudice and discrimination that are subtle make them more difficult to recognize and resist (Jackman, 1994), and these forms can be expressed more easily. For instance, gender relations are characterized by a power difference between men and women such that the men are considered as more worthy (e.g., as more competent, agentic than women) but women as friendlier, and more socially-oriented than men; attributes that some consider to be important but less valuable in society. Further, gender stereotypes prescribe dominance to men compared to women, who are often expected to behave in a more submissive way to comply with the stereotypes of their group.
Other researchers have diligently explored how behaving in a complementary way in a social interaction helps to maintain positive relations, facilitating achievement of common goals. That is, when people are working together on a task with another person and they want to succeed in this task and also to maintain a positive interpersonal relations, they will often respond to the other person’s behavior in a complementary way. This tendency generates interpersonal complementarity: If one behaves in a dominant manner, the other will be more submissive (or vice versa), as long as there is a positive affiliation between them (e.g., they see each other as friendly and cooperative). These results have been found also when observing the non-verbal behavior of people during interpersonal interactions (Tiedens & Fragale, 2003).
Bringing together these two ideas (the role of power in gender relations, and the existence of complementary behavior in interpersonal relations), we hypothesized that in an affiliative setting—with smiles serving as strong signals of the situation’s positive emotional tone—people will display complementarity: in response to dominant behavior they will become more submissive, especially when gender is salient (i.e. in an intergroup context) providing a gender stereotypic basis for dominance vs. submission. When the context is more competitive (not affiliative –no smiling) the motivation will be to contest (compete with) the dominant behaviour, instead of complementing it.
We tested our hypotheses in three studies recently published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (de Lemus, Spears, & Moya, 2012).
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Our research supports the argument that certain forms of prejudice and discrimination (sexism) that are subtle (disguised with a smile) make them more difficult to recognize and resist. The other way to frame our findings (perhaps in a more positive tone), is that when the smile is not present, women do seem to challenge male sexist dominance. This is, to some extent, a positive finding in terms of gender equality. We conclude our paper saying that “if women sustain the cycle of sexism unconsciously through their behavior this makes achieving gender equality harder than we might have thought. However, this implies that raising consciousness is literally as well as metaphorically the way forward.”
Read the rest of their post and a summary of their results here.
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Posted by The Situationist Staff on April 27, 2012
Robert Levenson, UC Berkeley Department of Psychology, explores the changes in emotion that occur with age. Much of his research focuses on the nature of human emotion, in terms of its physiological manifestations, variations in emotion associated with age, gender, culture, and pathology, and the role emotion plays in interpersonal interactions.
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Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 28, 2012
Tanya L Chartrand is a professor of psychology and neuroscience at the Duke University Fuqua School of Business in North Carolina. With David T Neal from the University of Southern California she recently published a paper entitled “Embodied Emotion Perception: Amplifying and Dampening Facial Feedback Modulates Emotional Perception Accuracy”, which found that using Botox – a neurotoxin injected into muscles to reduce frown lines – reduces a person’s ability to empathise with others.
It wouldn’t surprise people to hear that it’s difficult to tell what the Botoxed are feeling, but your study found that the Botoxed have little idea what we are feeling?
Yes, we always assume that you can’t tell what the Botoxed people are feeling because their faces are somewhat paralyzed and can appear frozen, but what is less intuitive is that being injected with Botox impairs their ability to understand what other people around you are feeling.
To demonstrate this you asked women to look at photographs of people’s eyes and match them to human emotions…
Yes, it’s called the “Reading the mind in the eyes test“, and it’s sometimes given to people on the autism spectrum. The people who had a Botox treatment in the previous two weeks were not as accurate as our control group, who had been treated with Restylane – a skin filler – whose results were similar to untreated adults.
Why did you choose a control group who had used filler, rather than a random group?
We wanted to match the two groups on everything we could except that one had the paralysing agent and the other hadn’t. The Restylane group are demographically similar to the Botox group – in terms of age and gender, socio-economic status, and had the same concerns with looking good. So if we got a random group of people who would never have one of these cosmetic procedures then they could differ in a lot of other ways. This way we made sure that we were just isolating the fact that Botox is
The study talks about “embodied cognition” – could you explain?
This is the idea that the way we think and feel is grounded in our bodies. The way we understand others’ emotions is to experience those emotions ourselves. We do this with facial micro-mimicry. So if you are wincing in pain I immediately do a micro-wince, and that sends signals to my brain that this person is experiencing pain, and by experiencing it myself I now understand what you are going through.
So Botox messes with our embodied cognition?
Yes, it’s interfering with that first step, which is mimicking facial expressions and that’s what sets the whole thing off. If you can’t mimic someone’s wince, your brain isn’t going to be sent the same message – that this person is experiencing pain – so you end up not being as accurate and not really understanding the emotion.
If your empathy skills are inhibited by Botox what outcomes might that have for your day-to-day life?
My collaborator, David Neal, was initially interested in looking at the consequences for romantic relationships. Say if you’re married, you get Botox and then if you are not able to understand whatyour partner is feeling any more, it could lead to romantic dissatisfaction. We needed to see the basic effect before looking at some downstream consequences for marital satisfaction. This is maybe what we will study next.
So someone could have Botox to look better, say for going on dates, but then they find there’s no “connection”…
Absolutely. The irony is that having Botox to look better and be more attractive may make you less attractive in some ways, because you’re not empathising with others so well.
So are the benefits of Botox overrated?
I know there’s been some research showing that Botox can help people who are depressed feel better. So I wouldn’t want to say there aren’t some positive benefits people gain from feeling better about themselves, feeling more attractive, feeling younger, but this is one negative to point out to people. Some people will think, “Fine, I’d rather not empathise.” It’s not like Botox makes you completely unable to understand any emotions in others, but it definitely reduces your capacity to understand those emotions.
The idea for the study came from a paper that said long and happily married couples began to resemble
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Posted by The Situationist Staff on September 21, 2011
From the BBC’s “Bang Goes the Theory Team.”
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Posted by Adam Benforado on July 14, 2011
Look around and you will see countless examples of how we conceptualize luck as following the “logic of contagion”: the star baseball player who refuses to change his socks during his record-breaking hitting streak; the basketball player who takes a shower during halftime of a playoff game after going 0-12 from the field; the students rubbing the foot of a lucky statute on their way to a big exam.
Luck, good or bad, seems to have a certain “stickiness.”
Over the weekend my friend Norbert Schwarz sent me a fascinating new article that he has just published with Alison Jing Xu and Rami Zwick in the Journal of Experimental Psychology that investigates this very phenomenon. The abstract of the paper appears below:
Many superstitious practices entail the belief that good or bad luck can be “washed away.” Consistent with this belief, participants who recalled (Experiment 1) or experienced (Experiment 2) an episode of bad luck were more willing to take risk after having as opposed to not having washed their hands, whereas participants who recalled or experienced an episode of good luck were less willing to take risk after having as opposed to not having washed their hands. Thus, the psychological effects of physical cleansings extend beyond the domain of moral judgment and are independent of people’s motivation: incidental washing not only removes undesirable traces of the past (such as bad luck) but also desirable ones (such as good luck), which people would rather preserve.
You can check out the whole article, Washing Away Your (Good or Bad) Luck: Physical Cleansing Affects Risk-Taking Behavior, here.
As a fan of Norbert’s work, I’m a bit biased, but it’s a great contribution to the growing embodied cognition literature.
For a recent review of the implications of the field for law and legal theory, click here.
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Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 25, 2011
Elaine McCardle wrote a terrific review of last month’s Fifth Annual PLMS Conference. Her article is the spotlight piece on the Harvard Law School website and includes several excellent videos, photos, and links. Here’s the story.
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While equality is a fundamental principle of American law and the bedrock of the national psyche, inequality has actually increased in the past four decades in the distribution of wealth, power, opportunity, even health. Yet the topic of inequality has received relatively little attention from legal theorists, and, for the most part, it is ignored in the basic law school curriculum.
A conference last month at HLS, “The Psychology of Inequality,” presented by the Project on Law & Mind Sciences (PLMS), stepped into that vacuum, bringing together scholars, law students, and others to examine inequality from the standpoint of the latest research in social science, health science, and mind science, and to reflect on the implications of their findings for law. The HLS Student Association for Law and Mind Sciences (SALMS), together with a group of roughly 20 students, were instrumental in organizing the conference.
“Inequality matters in ways that are not commonly understood, including in how people see and make sense of the world,” saysJon Hanson, the Alfred Smart Professor of Law and Director of PLMS. “Indeed, the way people respond to instances of inequality – either by equalizing, or by rationalizing – appears to be a very significant factor in how they view markets, regulation, and many important policy and social issues. So when we engage in policy debates, mustering all our best arguments and evidence in favor of a given policy conclusion we shouldn’t be perplexed when our opponent doesn’t budge,” says Hanson. “Such recalcitrance on both sides of a discussion often reflects, not the inadequacy, but the irrelevance, of the reasons being exchanged. Behind it all may be a conflict between largely subconscious urges: some people would rather rationalize inequality while others lean toward equalizing.”
Hanson was one of more than a dozen scholars who spoke at the Feb. 26 conference, the fifth annual conference by PLMS, founded by Hanson six years ago to promote interdisciplinary exchange and collaboration between the mind sciences and the l
egal community. PMLS supports research, writing and conferences in order to dislodge the prevailing “dispositionist” approach of law – which holds that human beings, for the most part, make rational choices based on logical preferences – in favor of a “situationist approach.” Situationsim recognizes that social sciences and mind sciences, including social psychology, social cognition, and cognitive neuroscience, have repeatedly demonstrated that human behavior is influenced by countless factors ignored by the dispositionist approach, which collectively are known as “situation.”
Jaime Napier, an assistant professor of psychology at Yale University, presented her research on the ways in which high-status and low-status groups differ in their rationalizations of inequality. High-status people tend to place blame on individuals for their lot in life, while low-status people tend to see theirs as the natural order of things. Eric Knowles, an assistant professor of psychology and social behavior at the University of California, Irvine, discussed his theory of “malleable ideologies,” through which different groups with a same core ideology – say, “life is sacred” – can come to different outcomes on issues such as abortion or the death penalty. Adam Benforado ’05, a former student of Hanson’s and an assistant professor at the Earl Mach School of Law at Drexel University, presented on the mind-body connection in decision-making, including how seemingly innocuous environmental influences such as room temperature might have significant influence on decisions made by juries and judges. Ichiro Kawachi, a Professor of Social Epidemiology and Chair of the Social/Behavioral Sciences Department at the Harvard School of Public Health, discussed research showing that people of lower social status lead shorter, sicker lives, while other speakers discussed ways that social disparities influence health, how even young children favor high-status individuals, and the drive among humans to view the world as essentially fair.
In addition to national experts in the areas of health, psychology, and mind sciences, a number of HLS faculty contributed to the discussion from their areas of expertise in a panel discussion (see video below), including John Palfrey ’01, the Henry N. Ess III
Professor of Law and Vice Dean for Library and Information Resources, an expert on the internet; Lucie White ’81, the Louis A. Horvitz Professor of Law, who specializes in poverty law and international economic and social rights; Robert C. Bordone ’97, the Thaddeus R. Beal Clinical Professor of Law and Director of the Harvard Negotiation & Mediation Clinical Program; Stella Burch Elias, a Climenko Fellow and Lecturer on Law and Andrew Woods ’07, a Climenko Fellow and Ph.D. candidate in politics at Cambridge University.
In that discussion, Hanson shared some provocative ideas. The good news, he said, is that humans have an egalitarian impulse, so that inequality causes them discomfort; some resolve the conflict by redistributing so that there is more equality, while others rationalize with reasons that explain the inequality. The bad news, Hanson added, is that it’s not terribly hard to move someone away from the equalizing impulse.
“When you experience fear and threat – personal threat, group threat, system threat – you become a hardcore dispositionist,” said Hanson, snapping his fingers, “just like that!”
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More here. Related Situationist posts:
Posted in Distribution, Education, Embodied Cognition, Events, Ideology, Implicit Associations, Legal Theory, Situationist Contributors, System Legitimacy | Tagged: Distribution, inequality, PLMS, PLMS Conference | 2 Comments »
Posted by The Situationist Staff on January 31, 2011
The Brand-Name Ego Boost:
Researchers found that using a generic (vs. brand name) product undermines self-esteem. In one experiment, university students were asked to type out a resume, ostensibly for a recruiting event. Students used an Apple iMac to type their resumes and were told that the keyboard and mouse were new. Some students, though, were told that the keyboard and mouse were generic parts — to save money. The students who used the generic keyboard reported expecting a lower salary. More . . .
Lower stress through writing:
Researchers at the University of Chicago have shown that expressive writing before a test can boost scores. More . . .
Everyone assumes that heaven is high above the ground somewhere, while hell is down below. But why can’t heaven be below us, and hell high above? According to a new study, our brains seem to automatically link elevation with goodwill. In one experiment in a mall in mid-December 2009, researchers set up Salvation Army kettles in three locations: the top of an escalator, the bottom of an escalator, and away from any escalators. Shoppers contributed more often at the top of the escalator and least often at the bottom of the escalator. More . . .
Explaining Willow and Trig:
Let’s call it the Sarah Palin effect, in honor of Track, Bristol, Willow, Piper, and Trig. A new analysis suggests that parents living on the frontier tend to give their kids unusual names. . . . These differences seem to be explained by the greater individualistic culture of the frontier. More . . .
Posted by Adam Benforado on December 20, 2010
Ask anyone in legal academia about the annual U.S. News rankings and you will undoubtedly hear a long list of complaints about how they fail to capture the strengths and weaknesses of schools, encourage deans to invest in the wrong things, and offer little true insight for prospective students.
Yet no one has managed to articulate a feasible plan for breaking free from their choke hold and so nearly every law school in the country plays the rankings game to one degree or another, whether it is hiring experts to help increase incoming LSAT scores or sending out glossy brochures to the chosen few who vote on faculty reputation scores.
A few weeks ago, however, Brooklyn Law School took things to a new level by sending out . . . spicy salsa!
As my colleague, Dan Filler, argued over at the Faculty Lounge, the idea was clearly to get everyone thinking that Brooklyn Law is “hot” right now. Indeed, the label on the glass jar says as much.
But I wonder about the mechanism.
Could there be some embodied cognition effects going on here?
Could this be the natural extension of Lawrence Williams and John Bargh’s 2008 Science article “Experiencing Physical Warmth Promotes Interpersonal Warmth“?
As Williams and Bargh suggested, “‘Warmth’ is the most powerful personality trait in social judgment . . . [and] experiences of physical warmth (or coldness) . . . increase feelings of interpersonal warmth (or coldness), without the person’s awareness of this influence.”
It’s time to do an experiment looking at whether eating hot (spicy) food leads to judgments that people, ideas, and entitities are “hot.”
Budding psychologist collaborators out there, let’s pull the IRB together and get this study up and running. I’ll supply the salsa.
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For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “The Embodied Situation of Power,” “The Situational Power of Appearance and Posture,” “The Situational Effects of Hand-Washing,” “Embodied Rationality,” and “The Embodied Cognition Bonanza!.”
Posted by The Situationist Staff on October 7, 2010
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When suiting up with that “power tie,” you may also want to strike a pose — a power pose, that is. New research indicates that holding a pose that opens up a person’s body and takes up space will alter hormone levels and make the person feel more powerful and more willing to take risks. “These poses actually make you more powerful,” said study researcher Amy C.J. Cuddy, a social psychologist at the Harvard Business School.
The opposite also proved true: Constrictive postures lowered a person’s sense of power and willingness to take risks. Cuddy teaches the results of the study to her students. . . .
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In the study, researchers randomly assigned 42 participants, 26 of them women, to assume and hold a pair of either low- or high-power poses. The high-power posers spent one minute sitting in a chair in front of a desk, with feet resting on it and hands clasped behind the head, and, in the other pose, they stood, leaning forward over a table, with arms out and hands resting on the table. In both poses, the participants took up space, an expression of power not unique to the human world. For example, peacocks fan their tails to attract a mate and chimpanzees bulge their chests to assert their hierarchical rank, the researchers noted.
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The low-power group sat for one minute with their hands clasped on their thighs, legs together, and also stood for one minute with arms folded and legs crossed.
After the subjects had finished their poses, they were given $2 with the option of keeping it or gambling it on the roll of a die. Depending on the outcome, the subjects could double their money or lose it.
Subjects also were asked to rate how “powerful” and “in charge” they felt. The researchers measured hormone levels before and after the poses.
Those who held the high-power poses saw their testosterone increase, while their levels of a stress hormone, cortisol, decreased. Testosterone is associated with dominance and tends to rise before a competition and after a win, but not after a defeat, according to prior research. People in power tend to have lower levels of cortisol. Although cortisol levels can fluctuate in response to challenges, chronically elevated cortisol levels seen among people with low status have been associated with health problems.
The high-power posers were more likely to risk their $2 for the chance to double it: Eighty-six percent took the gamble, compared with 60 percent of the low-power posers. They also reported feeling more powerful and in charge than did the low-power posers.
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Read the whole story at LiveScience. Image from Flickr. For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “The Situational Power of Appearance and Posture,” “The Situational Effects of Hand-Washing,” “The Situation of Imitation and Mimickry,” “The Situation of Trust,” “Embodied Rationality,” “The Embodied Cognition Bonanza!,” “The Situation of Body Image,” “The Magnetism of Beautiful People,” “Sam Gosling on the Meaning of the Stuff in our Situation,” “The Situation of Touch,” and “The Situation of Hair Color.”
Posted by The Situationist Staff on September 5, 2010
Gustaf Gredebäck is an Associate Professor at the Department of Psychology, Uppsala University where he manages the Uppsala Babylab. His research span several topics including occulomotor development, social cognition, and object representations in infancy. Central to his research is the active infant, that perceive, interpret, and interact with his/her physical and social environment in a goal directed and future oriented manner.
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For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “A (Situationist) Body of Thought,” “Smart People Thinking about People Thinking about People Thinking,” “A Closer Look at Interior Situation,” “The Unconscious Situation of our Consciousness – Part IV,” “The Body Has a Mind of its Own,” and “Brainicize: The Situational Malleability of our Brains.”