More self-confidence through strong poses?

A dominant posture could help children to feel more confident in school. This is the result of a new study that gives first hints on how pupils could feel better at school with simple exercises.

Postures as a nonverbal expression of power in children

A dominant posture could help children to feel more confident in school. This is the result of a new study by psychologists from the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg and the University of Bamberg. The study was recently published in the journal "School Psychology International" and gives first hints on how pupils could feel better at school with simple exercises.

Some poses are clear: If someone sits with arms crossed behind the head and puts their feet casually on the table, this person probably experiences himself as very self-confident. Arms crossed in front of the body and a curved back, on the other hand, indicate insecurity. "Body language is not only an expression of feelings. Conversely, it can also influence how people feel," says Robert Körner from the Institute of Psychology at the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (Germany). The research on power posing investigates, among other things, the extent to which a certain body posture can also influence a person's feelings and self-esteem. "Power posing is a non-verbal expression of power. It involves very striking gestures and changes in posture," Körner continues. So far, the consequences for adults have been investigated extensively. Körner's study is the first to deal with children. "Children from age five onwards are quite capable of recognizing and interpreting the posture of others," the psychologist continues.

The researchers conducted their experiment with 108 fourth-grade pupils. One group was to assume two particularly open and space-consuming postures for one minute each, the other a pose with crossed arms and lowered head. The children then completed a series of tests. It was found that the children who had previously adopted an open position were in a better mood and reported higher self-esteem than the children in the other group. "The effects were particularly noticeable in relation to questions concerning the school context. Here, power posing had a particularly beneficial effect on the children's self-esteem," Körner summarized. "It is worthwhile for teachers to examine to what extent this method can help children." However, Körner says that the results of the new study should not be overestimated, nor should one hope for too much from the technique. The effects are only short-lived. Serious problems or mental illnesses must continue to be treated by trained therapists.

The new study coincides with earlier results on power posing. However, the concept is controversial in psychological research: some of the results, which showed effects on hormone balance or behavior, for example, could not be confirmed. However, this also applies to other studies in psychology and other scientific disciplines. "To make our study even more objective and easier to understand, we pre-registered it with a complete methodology. This means that we determined everything in advance and could not change anything afterward," explains Körner.

Körner R., Köhler H., Schütz A. Powerful and confident children through expansive body postures? A preregistered study of fourth-graders. School Psychology International (2020). DOI: 10.1177/0143034320912306

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