Do expansive body postures increase self-esteem in children?

A dominant body posture may help children to feel more confident in school.

Power posing is a popular but also controversial topic. Still, there has been no research on the possible effects on children.

Somebody poses don’t need further explanation: When a person sits with their arms crossed behind their head, resting their feet casually on a table, they are probably feeling very self-confident. Arms folded in front of one’s body and a hunched back, on the other hand, typically indicates insecurity.

Robert Körner from the Institute of Psychology at MLU said“Body language is not just about expressing feelings; it can also shape how a person feels. Power posing is the nonverbal expression of power. It involves making very bold gestures and changes in body posture.”

“Up to now, most of the research has revolved around studying the effects on adults. This study is the first to examine children. Children from the age of five can recognize and interpret the body posture of others.”

To investigate the influence of power posing in children, a new study by psychologists from Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg and the Otto Friedrich University of Bamberg, enrolled 108 fourth graders.

They were randomly assigned to a high versus a low power posing group. One group was to assume two open and expansive postures for one moment each. The other group posed with their arms folded before them and their heads down. The children at that point finished a series of psychological tests. The children who had recently assumed an open posture indicated a better mood and reported higher self-esteem than the children in the other group. The impacts were especially striking when it came to questions concerning school.

Scientists found that a dominant body posture may help children to feel more confident in school.

Körner said, “Here, power posing had the strongest effect on the children’s self-esteem. Teachers could try and see whether this method helps their students.”

“The study should not be blown out of proportion and that expectations about this technique should be tempered. The effects observed were only short-term. Trained professionals must treat serious problems or mental illness.”

The new study is consistent with earlier findings on power posing; however, the concept is controversial in the field of psychological research. Some of the findings, which indicated effects on hormones or behavior, for example, could not be replicated. However, this is also the case for other studies in psychology and other scientific disciplines.

Körner said, “To make our study even more objective and transparent, we pre-registered it and all of the methodology. This means that we specified everything in advance and could not change anything afterward.”

Journal Reference:
  1. Robert Körner, Powerful and confident children through expansive body postures? A preregistered study of fourth-graders. DOI: 10.1177/0143034320912306

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