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Hormone Profiling: Accurate, Complete, Clinically Relevant

Power Up - But Is It Accurate?

One of the most popular TED talks is a lecture by Amy Cuddy, of Harvard Business School, in which she discusses her research exploring how people can present themselves as powerful, take-charge types – even when they may not think of themselves that way – by assuming an assertive stance. Stretching arms and legs, sprawling out on a sofa, altogether taking up more space – moves like these are said to increase an empowering feeling of confidence.


Among Cuddy’s studies in this area is a paper written with Dana R. Carney and Andy J. Yap and published in Psychological Science. In it, study participants who practiced open, expansive “high-power poses” for just two minutes experienced a 25 percent drop in cortisol levels, along with a 20 percent jump in testosterone levels.


Not to dispute the effectiveness of power poses – most of us could use a little extra self-assurance, even from a placebo. And follow-up work using behavioral indicators has tended to confirm the confidence-building effect Cuddy reports is occurring at the biochemical level. All the same, you’ve got to wonder how that hormonal boost was measured. The instant comparison suggests that researchers obtained before-and-after samples of either saliva or blood. Too bad that neither of these is remotely reliable for measuring true levels of any sex or adrenal hormone. So, while the research may offer an easy way to unleash your inner Type A, it’s not physiologically credible if the hormone measurements were made with any modality other than the 24-hour urine sample.

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