Fake it until you become it

The art of “faking it” until you make it

Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist, argues that the way our nonverbal selves are presented affects how other people perceive us and how it affects our minds. Cuddy says, “in the animal kingdom, they’re about expanding you make yourself big, you stretch out, you take up more space, basically opening up, it is about opening up.”

Opening up occurs naturally in humans despite different factors. Cuddy points out that if a blind person wins a competition, they still open up into a v-shape with their hands in the air despite never seeing it done before.

Cuddy also points out that when high power nonverbal communication meets low power, you can visibly see it. Cuddy uses her classroom as an example of this from what she observes.

Cuddy observed that “NBA students really exhibit the full range of nonverbal power with characteristics of an alpha male. They come into the room, right in the middle of the room before class even starts. They really want to occupy space when they sit down, they spread out and raise their hand.” On the other hand, she observed that “some people are virtually collapsing as soon as they come in. You see it on their faces and bodies. They sit down in their chair and make themselves tiny and raise their hand.”

The way one’s nonverbal self is presented may affect how one participates in a class setting, making Cuddy wonder, can you fake it ’till you make it?

Teaming up with Dana Carney, an American psychologist, Cuddy began to test this question to see if practicing high power posses would make one feel more powerful. Cuddy states that our nonverbals govern how other people think and feel about us but asks “do our nonverbals govern how we think and feel about ourselves?”

Together, Carney and Cuddy found that “when it comes to power, it also goes both ways, so when you feel powerful, your more likely to do this but, it’s also possible if you pretend to be powerful you feel powerful.” Their second question was, do our bodies change our minds? They looked at hormones to understand thoughts and feelings. Cuddy says, “powerful people show confidence and incentive.” They found Alpha males in the primate hierarchy have higher testosterone and lower cortisol (stress hormone). With even people in power exhibiting the same results.

To test this theory more, they proceed to have volunteers stand in high power or low power position for 2 minutes before allowing them a chance to gamble. Leading them to find out 86% in high power positions would gamble while only 60% of low power would.

The high power positions showed a 20% increase in testosterone, while low powered positions had a 10% decrease. However, high power positions had a 25% decrease in cortisol, and low power positions had a 15% increase, just from standing in these positions for 2 minutes.

Cuddy states that “our nonverbal actions govern how we think and feel about ourselves. Our bodies change our minds.” This made Cuddy and Carney wonder, “where can we use this?” They decided the best way to observe this would be through concluding interviews. So, to test how nonverbal actions affected people, they had one group do high power positions and the other do low power positions for 2 minutes before the interview.

The interview was 5 minutes, and the interviewer was instructed to give no nonverbal feedback, essentially meaning that they would be expressionless during the whole interview. A separate panel of judges then decided, without knowing who did what posses or what this was for, agreed on who should be hired. The chosen ones were all those who did high power positions first rather than those who did low power positions beforehand for 2 minutes.

Cuddy and Carney also found that individuals’ actions bring out their true selves. They make an individual more confident, passionate, enthusiastic, captivating, comfortable, and authentic selves.

The results of these studies and experiments led Cuddy to conclude that if you fake it, you can become it. Tiny tweaks can equal big changes.