Body language

Body Language – Your Posture

Could changing your body language change your mind?
(652 words)
IELTS Reading Questions:
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A  Body language is an important part of communication and can have a significant effect on what other people think about you. Although much of it is unconscious, it might be worth thinking about your body language a bit more – both other people’s impressions of you and your own body language might affect you more than you realise.

B  It is well-known that smiling and maintaining the right amount of eye contact tend to make people like us more. However, an experiment described in Psychology Today suggests that your posture also has a significant effect on how people perceive you, especially when they’re forming first impressions. In the experiment, people in dating profiles were rated on attractiveness, and those who had expansive postures and took up more space in their photos were generally seen as more attractive.

Stand up straight with your shoulders back, suggests psychology professor Jordan Peterson. This is perhaps partly meant figuratively (a suggestion about how to act in the world), but your posture also determines how others perceive you, and these perceptions affect your position in the social hierarchy, Peterson says. He explains that we have evolved over millions of years to live and have positions in hierarchies, and an ancient part of our brains watches how we are treated by other people to help determine our own positions in these hierarchies.

D  He adds that if you slump around or adopt closed, protective postures, people will assign you a lower status in the hierarchy. When that happens, your brain notices and also assigns you a lower status and produces less serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter associated with happiness, and less of it means you will be less happy, more anxious, and less likely to stand up for yourself, Peterson explains. In contrast, by standing up straight, you will be perceived as more competent and confident by others, which will have a positive effect on your position in the hierarchy.

Amy Cuddy is another psychologist who was interested in posture, particularly how our own postures make us feel. She had observed that powerful people tend to have powerful postures – open and expansive with spread-out limbs. They also tend to be more confident and more optimistic and have higher levels of testosterone (the hormone associated with power) and lower levels of cortisol (the hormone associated with stress). Our body language is usually an unconscious response to how we feel – if we feel powerful this leads to us adopting a powerful posture. But Amy wanted to know if it could work the other way around: could standing or sitting in a powerful posture for just a few minutes make us feel more powerful? It seems the answer is yes.

F  In a TED talk with over 50 million views, she describes how she conducted an experiment which looked at this. People were divided into two groups: half of them had to adopt a high-power pose, and half a low-power pose for two minutes to see if there was any effect. It was found that the people in the high-power pose group felt more powerful afterwards and took more risks. They even had increases in testosterone and decreases in cortisol (though similar experiments done later didn’t produce these hormone changes).

G  Wondering if spending time doing a two-minute power pose could have an effect on real life situations, Amy conducted a similar experiment, but this time, after the two groups had done their powerful or powerless poses, they had to go for a job interview. The interview was filmed, and the video was then watched, without sound, by a group of observers. The observers’ task was to decide who they would like to give a job to, and, after watching, they wanted to offer jobs to people from the high-power pose group.

H  Stand up straight with your shoulders back and perhaps even spend couple minutes stretching your arms out like a winner before that next interview.

IELTS Reading Questions for Body Language - Posture:
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Sources and links from Body Language - Posture

Psychology Today article about body language and attractiveness by Jeremy Nicholson.
Jordan Peterson’s website. The information in this article came from his book 12 Rules for Life.
TED talk by Amy Cuddy about how your posture can change how you feel. 
Image by Zac Durant on Unsplash

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