Reading your own body language

Sitting up straight might boost your confidence in your own thoughts, according to a recent study. Your mother may have told you to sit up straight so that you presented a better appearance to others, but your posture could also be sending a message to yourself.

When volunteers were asked to write down their own positive and negative qualities with respect to a professional job and then asked to rate themselves as future professionals, their judgements on the two tasks were much more likely to coincide when they were sitting up straight with their chests out than when they were slouched down in their seats. This is interpreted as indicating that they gave more credence to their own thoughts when they were sitting up straight. I wonder how this would play out in something like cognitive-behavioral therapy, where you consciously try to change your own thoughts. Would it help to sit up straight in a confident posture when you are trying to reshape your mental landscape? On the other hand, I suppose you might want to avoid sitting confidently upright if you’re down on yourself.

You can read more in this article at Science Daily or in the paper itself: Body posture effects on self-evaluation: A self-validation approach, by Pablo BriƱol, Richard E. Petty, Benjamin Wagner. European Journal of Social Psychology, October 2009, p. 1053-1064. (Link goes to the abstract.)

1 Comment

  1. Our perception of how mentally sharp we are has more to do with how we’re feeling emotionally than how our cognitive functions are actually working.

    In other words when someone says, ‘I think my memory has become much worse recently’, research suggests that this tells us almost nothing about how their memory is working, but reliably indicates that their mood has been low.

    It’s quite amazing to think that we have such poor insight into the functioning of our own minds that we ‘mistake’ low mood for a bad memory, poor concentration or impaired problem solving.

    It seems that our ability to have insight into our own mental functioning is not very trustworthy.

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