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Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 49, 6 (2013) 965-971
Previous research suggests that there is a fundamental link between expansive body postures and feelings of power. The current research demonstrates that this link is not universal, but depends on people’s cultural background (Western vs. East Asian) and on the particular type of expansive posture enacted. Three types of expansive postures were examined in the present studies: the expansive-hands-spread-on-desk pose (Carney et al., 2010), the expansive-upright-sitting pose (Huang et al., 2011; Tiedens & Fragale, 2003), and the expansive-feet-on-desk pose (Carney et al., 2010). Of these postures, the expansive-feet-on-desk pose was perceived by both Americans and East Asians as the least consistent with East Asian cultural norms of modesty, humility, and restraint (Study 1). The expansive-hands-spread-on-desk and expansive-upright-sitting postures led to greater sense of power than a constricted posture for both Americans and East Asians (Studies 2a-2b). In contrast, the expansive-feet-on-desk pose led to greater power activation (Study 3) and action orientation (Study 4) for Americans, but not for East Asians. Indeed, East Asians in the expansive-feet-on-desk pose showed less power activation and action orientation than Americans in this pose. Together, these findings support a basic principle of embodiment – the effects of posture depend on: (a) the type of posture, and (b) the symbolic meaning of that posture.