The Posture Of The Powerful

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Earlier today, I posted an article about how feeling powerful can make us think and act more intelligently. The article described research by Columbia Business School professor Adam Galinsky showing that assuming an expansive posture can give us that sense of power. I want to share with you a passage from that study, which concerns this amusing New Yorker cover:

“The cover of the December 5, 2005, The New Yorker shows a comic depiction of the power relationship between the then-president of the United States, George W. Bush, and the vice president, Richard B. Cheney. President Bush, wearing an apron and carrying a feather duster, is slouched in his posture. The vice president has both arms expansively extended across the back of a sofa, his legs sprawled across a coffee table, while he enjoys a cigar.

Although the president has more power vested in him by the Constitution than the vice president does, the cartoon clearly suggests that posture is more indicative of real influence than one’s constitutionally sanctioned role. When it comes to power, hierarchical role and physical posture often reinforce one another, but this cartoon suggests that when they diverge within an individual, posture may be more important in determining whether people act as though they are really in charge.” (Read more here.)

What’s interesting to me is how closely Cheney’s posture in the drawing replicates the expansive posture that Galinsky asks subjects to assume in the lab: “one arm on the armrest of their own chair, the other arm on the back of a nearby chair, legs crossed so that the ankle of one leg rests on the thigh of the other leg and stretches beyond the edge of the chair.

Have you noticed examples of the relationship between posture and power in your own life?

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One Response to “The Posture Of The Powerful”

  1. Uzma says:

    Haha! I like the analogy.

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