Don’t Text Before an Audition?

July 18, 2013

Is it possible that cell phones have any degree of power to influence your behavior? It sounds crazy, but recent research shows a direct correlation between the size of one’s electronic device and one’s level of assertiveness displayed immediately following the use of that apparatus.

The Study

Harvard Business School researchers, Maarten Bos and Amy Cuddy  sought to determine the assertiveness of test subjects who used one of four different-sized Apple devices: the smallest device was an iPod which measures about the same size as an iPhone, the next largest was an iPad, then a MacBook laptop, and the largest was an iMac desktop. Subjects were asked to spend several minutes using one of these to take a survey and play games. However the researchers were most interested in analyzing how the subjects behaved just after these assigned digital tasks were completed. Researchers observed that the people who used the smallest device were most hesitant to stand up and locate the person in charge when forced to wait more than the five-minutes they’d been promised by the interviewer; indeed, some opted to passively wait twice as long leaving researchers to fetch the subjects due to a 10-minute wait limit. On the other hand, almost everyone who worked on the largest appliance grew impatient after waiting the promised five-minute period, and decisively stood up to search for the interviewer.

The researchers concluded, “Interacting with smaller versus bigger devices has an impact on subsequent power-related behavior. Participants interacting with smaller devices were less assertive.”


The Power of Body Position

Apparently, the key reason for this variance of behavior stems from the body posture people exhibit when using these devices: people tend to hunch over, bow their heads, pull their arms in tight, and essentially make themselves small when using the compact gizmos. Such posture sends a message to others–and even ourselves–that we are submissive and docile. On the contrary, the large desktop computer allows us to maintain an upright, open, chin-up and expansive posture that communicates self-confidence to our own brains as well as to those around us. Other studies have likewise shown we tend to sustain the body position our devices coax us into even after we stop using them. You might remember Amy Cuddy’s previous super-pose research that revealed how simply opening your body posture for two minutes actually has the power to make us act with confidence. Scientifically speaking, expansive body language changes your hormone levels (which in turn increases your sense of power) and diminishes your cortisone levels (which makes you less reactive to stress). You can take all these studies with a grain of salt, but it’s clear that the growing research always points to the same conclusion: that our body posture indeed influences how we behave.

Cuddy has previously suggested before important meetings–I’d say auditions qualifies as such–to get yourself in a power pose like Wonder Woman’s legs-apart, fists-on-waist position. Or stand with your arms triumphantly reaching over your head. Or sit back with your hands clasped behind your head–anything to literally open you up and make your posture larger. This newest small and large gadget research might be something you want to be aware of the next time you send off a text before your next audition. What do you think? Is this all a bunch of nonsense, or do you think it’s something worth paying attention to? Either way, next time you’re waiting in the lobby you can make an informed decision!