Tiny tweaks => big changes

Today I would like to share with you my favourite TED talk by Amy Cuddy in which she talks about how changing your body language can change people's perceptions of you and even change your body chemistry. The talk dates back to 2012, but it is still relevant and powerful today.

The main crux of the talk is the concept of "fake it 'til you make it", or better put "fake it 'til you become it"

Amy and her main collaborator Dana Carney, wanted to know whether you can truly fake it till you make it and can Like, can you do a power pose for a little while and actually experience a behavioural outcome that makes you seem more

They decided to bring people into the lab and run a little experiment. The participants gave a saliva sample and then were asked to adopt for two minutes either high-power poses or low-power poses.

After they had used the pose, they asked them, “How powerful do you feel?” on a series of items, and then gave them an opportunity to gamble, and then took a further saliva sample and compared the two.

They found that for risk tolerance, which is the gambling, in the high-power pose condition, 86% of you will gamble compared to only 60% for the low-power pose condition.

From their baseline when they come in, the high-power people experienced about a 20-percent increase in testosterone, and low-power people experience about a 10-percent decrease. This is significant because in both men and women increased testosterone leads to increase confidence and power. For cortisol (the stress hormone) high-power people experience about a 25-percent decrease, and the low-power people about a 15-percent increase.

With these hormone changes, just two minutes of adopting particular body language lead to hormonal changes that configure your brain to be either assertive, confident, and comfortable, or really stress-reactive. As Cuddy puts it, "our bodies change our minds and our minds can change our behaviour, and our behaviour can change our outcomes."

It certainly changed the outcome for one of her students: "[...]At the end of my first year at Harvard, a student who had not talked in class the entire semester, who I had said, 'Look, you’ve gotta participate or else you’re going to fail,' came into my office [...] she came in totally defeated, and she said, 'I’m not supposed to be here.'

The words 'not supposed to be here really resonated with Amy, as she had the exact feelings when she got into Princeton University - she felt like an impostor.

"And that was the moment for me. Because two things happened. One was that I realised, oh my gosh, I don’t feel like that anymore [..]but she does, and I get that feeling. And the second was, she is supposed to be here! Like, she can fake it, she can become it. So I was like, 'Yes, you are! You are supposed to be here! And tomorrow you’re going to fake it, you’re going to make yourself powerful, and [...] you’re going to go into the classroom, and you are going to give the best comment ever.' [...] And she gave the best comment ever, and people turned around and they were like, oh my God, I didn’t even notice her sitting there.

Months later, the student came to see the professor again, and she realised that she had not just faked it 'til she made it, she had actually faked it 'til she became it.

In order to be able to fake it until you become it, you can equip yourself by adopting high power-poses. These tiny tweaks lead to big changes. They are fantastic for using before you go into potentially stressful situations like big meetings, difficult conversations or job interviews. You can nip to the toilet just before hand and adopt one of the high-power poses and it can really change the outcome. As Amy says, tiny tweaks can lead to big changes.

See the image below, for some examples of power poses. My favourite is number three, often called the Wonder Woman pose.

As well as being very inspired by the science of the effects of changing your body language (I have indeed been standing like Wonder Woman before job interviews!) I was also encouraged by Cuddy's story.

When she was a college student she was involved in a bad car accident, she was thrown from the vehicle and suffered a head trauma. Doctors told her that she would struggle to ever regain her mental capacity from before the accident, and was very unlikely to finish her undergraduate degree.

She was devastated as her identity had been taken from her as she identified with being smart and her IQ (which had dropped two standard deviations).

Fortunately, she was strong and resilient and refused to give up. It may have taken her longer than her peers but she finished college and became professor and researcher at the highly prestigious  Harvard Business School where she uses experimental methods to investigate how people judge and influence each other and themselves. Such a powerful reminder that we do not have to let other people dictate who we want to be and that determination and perseverance will get you far.

Give the power poses as go, and remember that you are in charge of your own destiny. If you want something, go for it!


  1. When I worked in a classroom, power poses were definitely needed! I'm very shy so needed to fake confidence :)


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