ThesisPDF Available

The influence of bodily actions on social perception and behaviour: Assessing effects of power postures

Authors:

Abstract and Figures

Expansive and constrictive body postures serve a primary communicative function in humans and other animals by signalling power and dominance. Whether adopting such “power postures” influences the agent’s own perception and behaviour is currently a subject of debate. In this PhD thesis, I therefore explored effects of adopting power postures on behaviours closely related to the postures’ primary function of social signalling by focusing on responses to faces as particularly salient social signals. In a series of experiments, I utilized reverse correlation methods to visualize mental representations of preferred facial traits. Mental representations of implicitly as well as explicitly preferred faces evoked an affiliative and slightly dominant impression, but revealed no replicable effects of power postures. Two further separate experiments investigated posture effects on the perception of threatening facial expressions, and approach vs. avoidance actions in response to such social signals. While postures did not influence explicit recognition of threatening facial expressions, they affected approach and avoidance actions in response to them. Specifically, adopting a constrictive posture increased the tendency to avoid angry individuals. Finally, an attempt to replicate posture effects on levels of testosterone and cortisol demonstrated that even repeatedly adopting a power posture in a social context does not elicit hormonal changes. Altogether, these findings suggest that our body posture does not influence our mental representations and perception of other people’s faces per se, but could influence our actions in responses to social signals.
Content may be subject to copyright.
A preview of the PDF is not available
... In the last 10 years, a growing body of research has focused specifically on the impact of nonverbal physical postures expressing power and dominance on various psychological, emotional, and behavioral outcomes (e.g., Carney, Cuddy, & Yap, 2010;Cesario & McDonald, 2013;Yap, Wazlawek, Lucas, Cuddy, & Carney, 2013). Postural expansion and contraction are nonverbal cues reflecting high and low dominance and power both in humans and in many animal species (Metzler, 2018). Expansive body postures signal high dominance or power, whereas constrictive postures convey low power (Hall, Coats, & LeBeau, 2005). ...
... Although a previous study failed to demonstrate any difference between expansive and contractive postures on emotional activation by means of several physiological indicators (Andolfi et al., 2017, Study 2), future research should address the question of how and when to measure cognitive and/or emotional processes without being intrusive during the task. More broadly, and based on Darwin's (1872) evolutionary approach, it has been suggested that different postures may evoke different emotions and that expansive and contractive postures are ancient signals used by different animal species to express emotions (see Metzler, 2018). From this perspective, emotions are considered as predispositions to act adaptively, and specific body movements are associated with emotional states and their neuronal correlates. ...
Preprint
Can an individual’s body posture (expansive or contractive) affect their creative thinking (divergent or convergent)? Based on embodied cognition and the debate about the impact of nonverbal physical postures expressing power on psychological and behavioral outcomes, five experiments were conducted. We tested the prediction that expansive postures would have a positive effect on creativity tasks that have no right or wrong answer or optimal solution (divergent thinking), whereas contractive postures would have a positive effect on tasks with a right answer or an optimal solution (convergent thinking). As predicted, results revealed a positive effect of expansive postures on performance of creativity tasks requiring divergent thinking, such as producing original ideas (Study 1) or objects, either by combining shapes to create an original toy (Study 2) or by combining fragments to produce an original drawing (Study 3). Conversely, a positive effect of contractive postures was found on performance of insight tasks requiring convergent thinking, in which participants had to associate elements to discover a unifying and correct solution (Study 4) or overcome initial task constraints to find an optimal solution to a problem (Study 5). These findings open up new avenues for research in embodied creativity.
... In the last ten years, a growing body of research has focused specifically on the impact of nonverbal physical postures expressing power and dominance on various psychological, emotional and behavioral outcomes (e.g., Carney, Cuddy, & Yap, 2010;Cesario & McDonald, 2013;Yap, Wazlawek, Lucas, Cuddy, & Carney, 2013). Postural expansion and contraction are nonverbal cues reflecting high and low dominance and power both in humans and in many animal species (Metzler, 2018). Expansive body postures signal high dominance or power, whereas constrictive postures convey low power (Hall, Coats, & LeBeau, 2005). ...
... Although a previous study failed to demonstrate any difference between expansive and contractive postures on emotional activation by means of several physiological indicators (Andolfi et al., 2017, Study 2), future research should address the question of how and when to measure cognitive and/or emotional processes without being intrusive during the task. More broadly, and based on Darwin's (1872) evolutionary approach, it has been suggested that different postures may evoke different emotions, and that expansive and contractive postures are ancient signals used by different animal species to express emotions (see Metzler, 2018). From this perspective, emotions are considered as predispositions to act adaptively, and specific body movements are associated with emotional states and their neuronal correlates. ...
Article
Full-text available
Preprint can be downloaded at https://psyarxiv.com/6gxhe/ Can an individual’s body posture (expansive or contractive) affect their creative thinking (divergent or convergent)? Based on embodied cognition and the debate about the impact of nonverbal physical postures expressing power on psychological and behavioral outcomes, five experiments were conducted. We tested the prediction that expansive postures would have a positive effect on creativity tasks that have no right or wrong answer or optimal solution (divergent thinking), whereas contractive postures would have a positive effect on tasks with a right answer or an optimal solution (convergent thinking). As predicted, results revealed a positive effect of expansive postures on performance of creativity tasks requiring divergent thinking, such as producing original ideas (Study 1) or objects, either by combining shapes to create an original toy (Study 2) or by combining fragments to produce an original drawing (Study 3). Conversely, a positive effect of contractive postures was found on performance of insight tasks requiring convergent thinking, in which participants had to associate elements to discover a unifying and correct solution (Study 4) or overcome initial task constraints to find an optimal solution to a problem (Study 5). These findings open up new avenues for research in embodied creativity.
... All testing sessions took place between 13 and 19 h to attenuate effects of diurnal variation of hormone levels. Saliva samples were collected as part of another study (Metzler, 2018, see Study 1 in Chapter 6) during which participants had to categorize faces into inand outgroup members while repeatedly adopting postures between task blocks. Figures 1A and 1B depict the time course of postures, saliva samples and interleaved blocks of the face categorization task. ...
Article
Full-text available
Background: Adopting expansive vs. constrictive postures related to high vs. low levels of social power has been suggested to induce changes in testosterone and cortisol levels, and thereby to mimic hormonal correlates of dominance behavior. However, these findings have been challenged by several non-replications recently. Despite this growing body of evidence that does not support posture effects on hormone levels, the question remains as to whether repeatedly holding postures over time and/or assessing hormonal responses at different time points would yield different outcomes. The current study assesses these methodological characteristics as possible reasons for previous null-findings. Additionally, it investigates for the first time whether expansive and constrictive postures impact progesterone levels, a suggested correlate of affiliative motives and behavior. By testing the effects of repeated but short posture manipulations in between the blocks of a social task while using a cover story, it further fulfills the conditions previously raised as potentially necessary for the effects to occur. Methods: A total of 82 male participants repeatedly adopted an expansive or constrictive posture for 2 min in between blocks of a task that consisted in categorizing faces based on first impressions. Saliva samples were taken at two different time points in a time window in which hormonal responses to stress, competition and other manipulations are known to be strongest. Results: Neither testosterone and cortisol levels linked to dominance behaviors, nor progesterone levels related to affiliative tendencies, responded differently to adopting expansive as opposed to constrictive postures. The present results suggest that even repeated power posing in a context where social stimuli are task-relevant does not elicit changes in hormone levels.
... All testing sessions took place between 13 and 19 h to attenuate effects of diurnal variation of hormone levels. Saliva samples were collected as part of another study (Metzler, 2018, see Study 1 in Chapter 6) during which participants had to categorize faces into inand outgroup members while repeatedly adopting postures between task blocks. Figures 1A and 1B depict the time course of postures, saliva samples and interleaved blocks of the face categorization task. ...
Preprint
Full-text available
Background. Adopting expansive versus constrictive postures related to high versus low levels of social power has been suggested to induce changes in testosterone and cortisol levels, and thereby to mimic hormonal correlates of dominance behavior. However, these findings have been challenged by several non-replications recently. Although there is thus more evidence against than for such posture effects on hormones, the question remains as to whether repeatedly holding postures over time and/or assessing hormonal responses at different time points would yield different outcomes. The current study assesses these methodological characteristics as possible reasons for previous null-findings. By testing effects of repeated but short posture manipulations in a social context while using a cover-story, it further fulfills the conditions previously raised as potentially necessary for the effects to occur. Methods. 82 male participants repeatedly adopted an expansive or constrictive posture for 2 minutes in between blocks of a task that consisted in categorizing faces based on first impressions. Saliva samples were taken at two different time points in a time window in which hormonal responses to stress, competition and other manipulations are known to be strongest. Results. Neither testosterone and cortisol levels linked to dominance behaviors, nor progesterone levels related to affiliative tendencies, changed from before to after adopting expansive or constrictive postures. The present results establish that even repeated power posing in a context where social stimuli are task-relevant does not elicit changes in hormone levels.
Article
Full-text available
Reverse correlation is an influential psychophysical paradigm that uses a participant’s responses to randomly varying images to build a classification image (CI), which is commonly interpreted as a visualization of the participant’s mental representation. It is unclear, however, how to statistically quantify the amount of signal present in CIs, which limits the interpretability of these images. In this article, we propose a novel metric, infoVal, which assesses informational value relative to a resampled random distribution and can be interpreted like a z score. In the first part, we define the infoVal metric and show, through simulations, that it adheres to typical Type I error rates under various task conditions (internal validity). In the second part, we show that the metric correlates with markers of data quality in empirical reverse-correlation data, such as the subjective recognizability, objective discriminability, and test–retest reliability of the CIs (convergent validity). In the final part, we demonstrate how the infoVal metric can be used to compare the informational value of reverse-correlation datasets, by comparing data acquired online with data acquired in a controlled lab environment. We recommend a new standard of good practice in which researchers assess the infoVal scores of reverse-correlation data in order to ensure that they do not read signal in CIs where no signal is present. The infoVal metric is implemented in the open-source rcicr R package, to facilitate its adoption.
Article
Full-text available
When entering a subway car affording multiple targets for action, how do we decide, very quickly, where to sit, particularly when in the presence of a potential danger? It is unclear, from existing motor and emotion theories, whether our attention would be allocated toward the seat on which we intend to sit on or whether it would be oriented toward an individual that signals the presence of potential danger. To address this question, we explored spontaneous action choices and attention allocation in a realistic context, where a threat-related signal (an angry or fearful individual) and the target for action in that situation could compete for attentional priority. Results showed that participants chose the actions that avoided angry individuals and were more confident when approaching those with a fearful expression. In addition, covert and overt measures of attention showed a stronger avoidance effect for angry, compared to fearful, individuals. Crucially, these effects of anger and fear on attention allocation required the presence of action possibilities in the scene. Taken together, our findings show that in a realistic context offering competing action possibilities, threat-related distractors shape both action selection and attention allocation accordingly to their social function.
Article
Full-text available
Most emotional stimuli, including facial expressions, are judged not only by their intrinsic characteristics, but also by the context in which they appear. Gaze direction, for example, modifies the salience of explicitly presented facial displays. Yet, it is unknown whether this effect persists when facial displays are no longer task-relevant. Here, we first varied the salience of fearful, angry or neutral displays using gaze direction, while participants performed a gender (attended faces) or a scene discrimination task (unattended faces). Best performance occurred when faces were unattended and emotional expressions were highly salient (direct anger and averted fear), suggesting that these combinations are sufficiently important to capture attention and enhance visual processing. In a second experiment, we transiently changed participants’ individual characteristics by instructing them to hold either expansive or constrictive postures. Best performance occurred for direct anger and averted fear following expansive and constrictive postures, respectively, demonstrating that stimulus and observer characteristics jointly determine the attribution of relevance of threatening facial expressions and their interaction with attention.
Article
Full-text available
Being able to replicate scientific findings is crucial for scientific progress. We replicate 21 systematically selected experimental studies in the social sciences published in Nature and Science between 2010 and 2015. The replications follow analysis plans reviewed by the original authors and pre-registered prior to the replications. The replications are high powered, with sample sizes on average about five times higher than in the original studies. We find a significant effect in the same direction as the original study for 13 (62%) studies, and the effect size of the replications is on average about 50% of the original effect size. Replicability varies between 12 (57%) and 14 (67%) studies for complementary replicability indicators. Consistent with these results, the estimated true-positive rate is 67% in a Bayesian analysis. The relative effect size of true positives is estimated to be 71%, suggesting that both false positives and inflated effect sizes of true positives contribute to imperfect reproducibility. Furthermore, we find that peer beliefs of replicability are strongly related to replicability, suggesting that the research community could predict which results would replicate and that failures to replicate were not the result of chance alone.
Article
Stereotype research emphasizes systematic processes over seemingly arbitrary contents, but content also may prove systematic. On the basis of stereotypes' intergroup functions, the stereotype content model hypothesizes that (a) 2 primary dimensions are competence and warmth, (b) frequent mixed clusters combine high warmth with low competence (paternalistic) or high competence with low warmth (envious), and (c) distinct emotions (pity, envy, admiration, contempt) differentiate the 4 competence-warmth combinations. Stereotypically, (d) status predicts high competence, and competition predicts low warmth. Nine varied samples rated gender, ethnicity, race, class, age, and disability out-groups. Contrary to antipathy models, 2 dimensions mattered, and many stereotypes were mixed, either pitying (low competence, high warmth subordinates) or envying (high competence, low warmth competitors). Stereotypically, status predicted competence, and competition predicted low warmth.