Social psychologist Amy Cuddy, Associate Professor at Harvard Business School, uses experimental methods to investigate how people judge and influence each other and themselves. Her research suggests that judgments along two critical trait dimensions—warmth/trustworthiness and competence/power—shape social interactions, determining such outcomes as who gets hired and who doesn’t, when we are more or less likely to take risks, why we admire, envy, or disparage certain people, elect politicians, or even target minority groups for genocide.
Cuddy’s work focuses on how we embody and express competence and warmth, linking our body language to our feelings, physiology, and behavior. Her latest research illuminates how adopting body postures that convey competence and power can prepare us to be present and cope well in stressful situations. In short, as David Brooks summarized the findings, “If you act powerfully, you will begin to think powerfully.” Ultimately, Cuddy’s research suggests that when people feel personally powerful, they become more present: better connected with their own thoughts and feelings, which helps them to better connect with the thoughts and feelings of others. Presence—characterized by enthusiasm, confidence, engagement, and the ability to connect with and even captivate an audience—boosts people’s performance in a wide range of domains.