Social Psychologist Amy Cuddy delivers a forum address on the keys to success. (Savannah Hopkinson) - credit: The Daily Universe

Social Psychologist Amy Cuddy delivers a forum address on the keys to success. (Savannah Hopkinson) - credit: The Daily Universe

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TED talk sensation says being a poser can be powerful

PROVO, Utah— You’re only as weak as you … act? This may be the case according to, Amy Cuddy, American social psychologist, author and lecturer who is speaking at a BYU forum on March 27. Cuddy’s TED talk is the second most viewed of all time. Her research and lecture explores how people can turn their weaknesses into strengths by changing their body language.

Studies done by Cuddy, and associates at Colombia University, show how nonverbal behavior and snap judgments affect people from the classroom to the boardroom. Cuddy says, “Although our body language governs the way other people perceive us, our body language also governs how we perceive ourselves and how those perceptions become reinforced through our own behavior, our interactions, and even our physiology.”

High-power poses, which she describes in her lecture, raise testosterone and decrease cortisol (stress hormone) compared with low-power poses, which cause an increase in cortisol. In experiments, low-power posers take fewer risks and are less assertive. Posing powerfully makes people feel more powerful and less stressed.

This may be valuable information to give women, who are perceived as weaker than men, the edge at work. Currently, Utah ranks 50th out of 50 states with women being paid roughly 68 cents for every dollar paid to a man, according to research by the Joint Economic Committee.

Empowering people and lowering the stress hormones that lead to depression and anxiety may be especially relevant in a state where the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found in a study that the suicide rate among young adults ages 10 to 17 has more than doubled from 2011. Further, this knowledge of body language could help identify if a child is in a state of powerlessness, and could be useful in teaching how to lower their cortisol through body language.

Cuddy knows the value of overcoming weaknesses. As a young student, she suffered a severe head injury in a car accident, and doctors said her brain damage would make it impossible to finish college. She went on to get a Ph.D. in Social Psychology from the University of Colorado. She learned that limitations are often only in our mind. Cuddy now mentors and teaches others the keys to overcoming their fears and perceived shortcomings to reach their true potential and as she says, “Fake it ‘til you become it.”

“Cuddy has already improved many lives, and will likely improve many more. Her voice, as a writer and a speaker, is friendly and sympathetic,” says Marion Koob of International Relations at the University of Cambridge.

Devotional and Forums are open to the public every Tuesday at 11:05 a.m. Students, faculty and staff gather in the Marriott Center for the weekly Devotional or Forum address. Speakers include BYU faculty, leadership from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and a range of industry leaders and scientists.

Jo Schaffer