30 October 2009

Striking the pose: Posture creates confidence

From a recent study:
 Body Posture Affects Confidence In Your Own Thoughts

    Researchers found that people who were told to sit up straight were more likely to believe thoughts they wrote down while in that posture concerning whether they were qualified for a job.

    On the other hand, those who were slumped over their desks were less likely to accept these written-down feelings about their own qualifications.

    The results show how our body posture can affect not only what others think about us, but also how we think about ourselves, said Richard Petty, co-author of the study and professor of psychology at Ohio State University.

You can read the whole report here.

This is fascinating on at least two levels. I've always been surprised at how fluid self-presentation can be. How if you're committed to presenting a face or a mask, people tend to buy it. And beyond that, you tend to live into that persona -- that what you pretend to be, you tend to become.

Personae and masks in social life has been an obsession of mine ever since adolescence.

More than this though: I recently studied Viewpoints, a new approach to acting. I don't want to get into the whole thing now, but it breaks with the way acting has been taught for the last few years in the United States. Instead of an emphasis on psychology, it uses other techniques to get actors in their zone, in an expressive, large state.

Several of the exercises are externally driven. This has been a taboo. Delsarte, who offered a series of stereotyped gestures to convey an emotion, was justly ridiculed.


One of the exercises was to find a gesture that expresses an emotion or state of being. Just the physical gesture, that's all -- no memory attached to it, no context. Then you go around the studio performing that gesture; the other students work on theirs.

And goddam, if you didn't start feeling it pretty quickly. And 'it' -- the expressive content of the gesture -- worked from the outside in, until -- very spookily -- you were feeling grief, power, anger, royalty, whatever.
Simply by adopting the gesture alone.

What's on the surface shapes what's beneath. It's not merely superficial.

 If you're intersted in improving your everyday posture, I recommend the Alexander Technique, a practical, Western-based series of exercises. You will feel better, and perhaps even be more confident.

You can read about the technique here -- maybe I should post a longer series about it soon. It does sound a little like a crank/quack system, but it's not.Or perhaps I'm just overly confident because of my newly found elegant and dominant posture.

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