Commenter Spotted Toad says about Harvard B School prof Amy Cuddy’s popular Power Posing paper that’s a focal point of the social sciences’ Replication Crisis:
The original paper claimed that these poses caused a change in testosterone of over a third of a standard deviation and a change in cortisol of almost half a standard deviation.
Maybe this is an obvious point, but if this were true, it would represent a huge failure of the neuroendocrine system and homeostasis, to be manipulated and tricked so easily.
Indeed. On the other hand, I don’t think it’s impossible to hack your own fight-or-flight systems in, say, the direction of fight rather than flight.
What’s the Eminem rap song that football teams used to play in the locker room before games to psych themselves up? “Lose Yourself?” It’s about Eminem getting himself fired up for an important rap battle, but it applies well in lots of situations.
I wouldn’t be surprised if playing that song in a high school football team’s locker room before a big game in c. 2005 had measurable effects on the players’ biochemisty.
Here’s a video about Vince Young’s 2005 U. of Texas Longhorns team that beat Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart’s USC Trojan dynasty for the national championship set to “Lose Yourself.”
But … a few comments on why Power Posing is unlikely to replicate well EVEN if it ever worked in the first place.
- While Amy Cuddy is a good motivational speaker, Eminem is an extremely good rapper and this was his best song for the purpose of getting fired up. There are a zillion Aspiring Rappers in America, but Eminem was the single best one for awhile.
- There’s nothing keeping the other team from playing that song in their locker room too.
- After a few years, however, no doubt this song seemed corny and old-fashioned to high school football players. (But perhaps at some point in the future it will seem like a timeless classic and come back in popularity, for awhile.)
- One reason motivational techniques wear out is because they become associated with failure in the minds of their users. Say a team plays this song before it’s first game of the 2003 season and wins. And then they do it again and win again. And then a third time! With the aid of their Magic Song, they are unbeatable!
But then they lose 4 games in a row. So maybe for the 8th game of the season they try a different song because now this old song just reminds them of the dashing of their hopes for a good season.
Here’s another famous sports motivational song:
This story suggests that successful motivational techniques can be extremely idiosyncratic, both involving individuals and times/places. For example, the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates won the World Series using as their theme song the not very masculine disco song by the girl group Sister Sledge:
We are family
I got all my sisters with me
Presumably, veteran first baseman Willie Stargell’s motivation in choosing a song extolling sororal unity was that his team didn’t need to get more fired up, they needed to relax, lighten up, and not get on each other’s nerves during the long season.
Previously, “We Are Family” had been popular primarily at sororities and gay pride marches.
But 38-year-old giant slugger Willie Stargell picked it out as his team’s theme song that summer, and if Pops Stargell liked it, well, you could too without worrying about it raising doubts about your masculinity.
The 1979 Pirates were a particularly black team and Stargell was exploiting, perhaps unconsciously, a common African American trope of the time of embracing things that made white guys uncomfortable about their masculinity, such as disco dancing (1979 was the year of DJ Steve Dahl’s very white Disco Demolition Night at a White Sox game), on the grounds that they were so masculine that the usual white rules of acting masculine didn’t apply to them.
But picking out a song beloved by sorority sisters and drag queens as your ballclub’s motivational theme song may not work if you aren’t Willie Stargell in 1979.
So, while it very well is possible that you can hack your own or your team’s fight or flight system, you can’t expect it to replicate scientifically as well as, say, the laws of astrophysics.