54-study analysis says power posing does affect people’s emotions and is worth researching further



Image from original link at bpsrdigest

By Emma Young

Does power posing –  such as standing with your hands on your hips and your feet spaced well apart – really help to improve your life?

Yes – according to Amy Cuddy, one of the pioneers of the idea, at Harvard University (famous for her massively popular TED talk on the subject and her best-selling book Presence). No – according to a critical analysis by Joseph Simmons and Uri Simonsohn at the University of Pennsylvania, published in Psychological Science in 2017. The pair’s statistical analysis of 33 previous studies of potential posture effects led them to a damning conclusion: “the existing evidence is too weak to… advocate for people to engage in power posing to better their lives.”

But now Cuddy, and colleagues, are back, with a new paper also published in Psychological Science. While Cuddy appears to be softening her claims about what power-posing can achieve, she and her colleagues argue that their new analysis shows that there is strong evidence that posture affects emotions in particular, and that power-posing is likely to have a meaningful impact on people, and should not be discounted.

The new paper involves the same type of statistical analysis (called a p-curve analysis) adopted by Simmons and Simonsohn, which uses the distribution of “p values” to estimate the likelihood of falsely positive results in a given set of studies. But whereas Simmons and Simonsohn used this technique to analyse 33 published studies that Cuddy and others had highlighted in a 2015 paper, the new analysis was performed on every single peer-reviewed study in the field that Cuddy and her colleagues could find. This literature search added 21 studies to the total. In the new analysis, the researchers also looked specifically at potential effects of posture on feelings of power, which Simmons and Simonsohn did not.

This new analysis provides clear evidence, Cuddy’s team argue, that people who adopt open, expansive, “power” poses do feel more powerful. And “feeling powerful is an intrinsically consequential, theoretically important, fundamental outcome,” they write. “We believe that even transient feelings of power can have long-lasting consequences for people’s lives.”

They say their new work also provides “very strong” evidence that expansive vs. contractive (such as self-hugging) postures have other emotion-related effects, including affecting participants’ recall of positive vs. negative memories, their self-evaluations, their specific emotional state, and their ability to recover from a negative mood.

But what about impacts of power posing on actual behaviour?

Claims that power posing can change the way people behave – affecting their willingness to take risks or how they perform in a job interview, for example – are not supported by the new analysis, nor for that matter were they supported by a recent series of papers that failed to replicate previous work that had found power posing alters behaviour.

However, Cuddy and her colleagues argue that “there is a need for experimental tests of incremental or longitudinal effects of adopting expansive postures over time on various outcomes,” adding that “Right now, we are not aware of any such research”.

Ideas about what power-posing can, and can’t, do are clearly being refined. And will no doubt continue to be refined, as more studies are published – something that this new work perhaps makes more likely.

In their 2017 paper, Simmons and Simonsohn questioned the justification for spending “valuable resources” on research into power posing. In the conclusion to the new paper, Cuddy and her co-authors write: “Our findings…should encourage researchers who are investigating this area to continue to do so.”

P-Curving a More Comprehensive Body of Research on Postural Feedback Reveals Clear Evidential Value For Power-Posing Effects: Reply to Simmons and Simonsohn (2017)

Emma Young (@EmmaELYoung) is Staff Writer at BPS Research Digest. 

Please click here to read from original link.

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Dealing with anxiety by cutting to the (cognitive) core

Using hypnotherapy combined with the innovative technique described below may encourage faster and more effective results. Please read this blog’s pages or contact us directly for more information.


Cognitive bias training shown to change brain activation.

Let’s pretend for a moment you’re giving a presentation in a room full of very important people. You want their feedback, ideally some sign of positive approval because you know you’re being evaluated. You suddenly look to a person in the front row.

You notice their facial expression: a furrowed brow, sideways smirk, maybe a disapproving head shake. You begin to panic. You notice other people in the crowd looking the same. Your mind races and you can’t concentrate. You completely botch the presentation. The negative feeling sticks with you, and every time you have to give a talk, you’re faced with a crippling sense of anxious dread, triggered by the thought of repeat failure.

But here’s the thing. What you didn’t notice the first time around is that there were more smiling happy faces in the crowd than scowling ones.

Yes, it’s true, we tend to pay more attention to the negative (link is external) than positive. It’s a hardwired evolutionary-based response that makes the brain notice the losses (link is external) more than the gains. Unfortunately, such biases in our evolved cognition can also contribute to negative emotionality.

In fact, the attentional bias towards threat/negativity is the core cognitive mechanism that underlies much of our anxiety. (link is external)

Recent experimental work, however, is now showing that this default cognition can be reversed. We can train our biases to shift our focus (and thinking) away from the negative and towards the positive.

Cognitive bias modification training

For anxious people, the ingrained habit of selectively attending to only those things that are possibly dangerous leads to a vicious cycle in which an ambiguous world is seen and experienced as threatening (link is external)—even when it’s not.

Cognitive bias modification (CBM) training is an innovative intervention that’s been shown to break individuals out of that vicious cycle, and to “cut the anxiety off at the pass (link is external).”

Researchers believe that CBM is effective in its ability to manipulate and alter the target source of the brain’s supposed hardwired negativity bias. It does so through implicit, experiential, and rapid-based training. For example, in one type of intervention (link is external), people are simply instructed to repeatedly identify the location of a smiling face among a matrix of angry faces. Hundreds of these sorts of repeat trials are proving to be effective in reducing the attentional negativity bias contributing to maladaptive anxiety.

But how does it work, exactly? What are the changes happening in the brain, if any?

Assessing the neural mechanism of CBM training

New research (link is external) out of Biological Psychology is finding that CBM produces rapid changes in brain activity.

The team of researchers, led by Brady Nelson at Stony Brook University, predicted that a single training session of CBM would affect a neural marker called the error-related negativity (ERN).

The ERN is a brain potential that reflects a person’s sensitivity to threat. It fires whenever the brain encounters possible errors or sources of uncertainty, leading a person to notice things that might be going wrong around them. But it’s not all good. The ERN can go haywire. For instance, it’s known to be larger in people with anxiety and anxiety-related disorders (link is external) including GAD and OCD. A large ERN is indication of a hyper-vigilant brain that is constantly “on the lookout” for potential problems—even when no problems exist.

In the current study, the researchers predicted that a single CBM training session would help curb this threat response and lead to an immediate reduction in the ERN.

The experimental procedure

The researchers randomly assigned participants to either a CBM training or control condition. Both groups performed a task, once before the training (or control) and then again after. They had their ERN activity monitored using electroencephalographic recording (EEG).

In line with the predictions, they found that those who underwent the short CBM training elicited a smaller ERN compared to the control participants. The brain’s threat response was reduced from before to after the training, simply by instructing people to shift their attention towards positive (and away from the negative) stimuli.

The results indicate that CBM training minimizes the brain’s negativity bias by targeting the ERN—in effect by dampening the brain’s sensitivity to failure and uncertainty.

And an actual change in brain state through a single session of CBM is particularly encouraging when you consider the fact that cognitive-behavioral therapies (link is external) (CBT) have not been shown to elicit such neural changes.

Implications and future directions

One important implication of this work is that CBM is capable of altering brain activity in people from a non-clinical population. Majority of prior research has looked at people with anxiety-related psychopathologies. Here the findings suggest that everyone can benefit from CBM, and that even the mild form of anxiety can (and should be) kept in check in order to achieve optimal performance.

In fact, new CBM apps and games are now becoming widely available to the lay public. An online program called MindHabits (link is external) includes a number of games that get users to find the smile in an array of faces. They also have a similar game that uses positive/negative words rather than faces.

Similarly, a new app called Happy Faces (link is external) is giving user-friendly CBM training with various types of stimuli. A bonus feature with their app is it offers personalized training where you can include your own pictures as part of the game stimuli. So the faces you attend to during the game aren’t random strangers, but people you know.

We can even foresee a future of VR/AR technologies where we receive regular prompts to “find the smile” in a virtual shared space. The future gamification of CBM is just one example of how a simple attention training exercise can help improve a person’s psychological functioning and well-being from the inside out.

So keep this in mind for next time you have to give a presentation. And know that the smiles (and all the other good things) are there. You just need to train your brain to find them.


Nelson, B. D., Jackson, F., Amir, N., & Hajcak, G. (2017). Attention bias modification reduces neural correlates of response monitoring. Biological Psychology, 129, 103-110.

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Irish winger attributes career-best form to hypnosis


All eyes on me: Keith Earls.
Photo: Reuters

The result was long since settled as the clock ticked towards the 80-minute mark at the Aviva Stadium with Ireland leading Italy 56-19. Hunting a try to take them pass the 60-point barrier, Joey Carbery lined up for a long pass but was expertly picked off by Mattia Bellini. With a sizeable head start and as a wing, Bellini was not going to be caught.

That was until the figure of Keith Earls appeared at the bottom of the screen. Screaming across from the opposite wing, Earls eventually scragged Bellini inside his own 22. Along with that Finn Russell pass, it ranks as the most jaw-dropping moment of this year’s NatWest Six Nations Championship.

At 30 years-old, Earls is in the best form of his career. Asked to what he attributed this, Earls revealed that he has been working with famous hypnotist Keith Barry. “I am just trying to get them one per cents, which seems to be working,” Earls said. “I don’t want to get into the detail but he knows the brain better than anyone and just in terms of visualisation and stuff like that.”

In an age when there are only the tiniest differences between the fitness levels of the majority of elite sports teams, the biggest scope for improvement lies in the brain. Most athletes recognise this. Rugby players such as England full-back Anthony Watson openly discuss using sports psychologists. A hypnotist is just the next stage in brain training.

Barry has many sporting clients, but Earls is among the first to publicly acknowledge their relationship. Barry has a range of techniques depending on the individual client. Sometimes he will hypnotise them; on other occasions, the client will be awake as he uses neuro-linguistic programming to embed certain messages. Either way he is working to reprogram the subconscious mind. “Most people have heard of the subconscious, but they do not know what it does,” Barry told The Telegraph. “The subconscious mind regulates your autonomic nervous system which is your breathing, your blood flow, your heart rate, which are directly linked to moments of stress and anxiety.

“Under hypnosis, I can teach people how to deal with those moments by using what I call anchors and triggers. An anchor can be a visual or physical stimulus and once that is triggered, they can naturally release endorphins, feel-good hormones, which reverses the effect of stress chemicals coming into their body. That means the athlete can continue to perform to the best of their ability rather than allowing a mistake or external factor to distract them.”

Barry practises what he preaches. For the birth of his second child, his wife underwent a ‘hypno-birth’ relying purely on hypnosis rather than drugs for the pain management.

“Hypnosis is not quackery anymore,” Barry (below) said. “Visualisation under hypnosis can be as good as if not better than the actual physical training. There’s a famous basketball experiment where they got two teams of equal abilities. One team stopped physical training for a month and just did mental training while the other team did its normal training. They had a shoot-out at the end and the team that was just training the mind ended up thrashing the other one.”

Barry’s specialist technique is reverse visualisation, where he gets athletes to imagine their ideal scenario from back to front so in a rugby case they would be catching the ball and passing the ball in reverse. “When you do those things backwards you tend not to make any mistakes on a subconscious level,” Barry said. “If you do it forward then you may replay an old game where you have missed a tackle or dropped a ball.”

However, Barry denies he has the ability to make any player into a world-beater. “All credit has to go to Keith,” Barry said. “There are big gains to be had but it all depends on how hard you are willing to work and Keith has put all the work in himself.”

Earls retains his place on the right wing for Ireland’s match against Scotland. Coach Joe Schmidt has made two changes with tight-head prop Furlong returning while centre Garry Ringrose replaces the injured Chris Farrell.

Published in the Sidney Morning Herald by Daniel Schofield on

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Hypnosis: The new anesthetic?

  • hypnosis-AP110715032881.jpg

     Dr. Mourad spoke with the Associated Press regarding the benefits of thyroid surgery under hypnosis. Image from CBS news

    Can you imagine going through major surgery without general anesthesia? That’s what Christel Place did when she had her thyroid removed – and she’s one of a growing number of patients who opt out of general anesthesia and get hypnotized instead. Hypnosis plus a local anesthetic leaves patients sedated but aware, reports the Associated Press, and doctors say their recovery time is faster and their need for painkillers reduced. This method is feasible for only certain operations, of course – not those involving the heart or internal organs.

  • For her surgery at the hospital Cliniques Universitaires St. Luc in Brussels, Belgium, Place pictured herself hiking in the French Alps while surgeons sliced her neck open.

  • Doctors say nearly any surgery usually done with a local anesthetic could work with hypnosis and less pain medicine. Since doctors began offering hypnosis at the hospital in 2003, hundreds of patients have chosen it. At another Belgian hospital, more than 8,000 surgeries have been done this way since 1992.

    Dr. Michel Mourad performed thyroid surgery on Place. Surgery to solve thyroid problems is usually done with either local or general anesthesia and is considered low risk.


  • Dr. Mourad spoke with the Associated Press regarding the benefits of thyroid surgery under hypnosis.

    In the U.S., there are no guidelines on the surgical use of hypnosis, according to president of the American Society of Anesthesiologists Dr. Mark Warner. Dr. Warner often uses music therapy or asks patients to picture a soothing scene to distract them from any discomfort. “If we could get more research on the right patient groups that would benefit from (hypnosis), that would be wonderful,” he said.

    Anesthesiologist Dr. Fabienne Roelants, monitored Place during her surgery.

  • Dr. Roelants described hypnosis as a modified state of consciousness. “The patient’s mind goes to a pleasant place, but the body stays in the operating room.” At Roelants’ hospital, one-third of all surgeries to remove thyroids and one-quarter of all breast cancer surgeries, including biopsies and mastectomies, use hypnosis and local anesthetic.

  • Roelants said if patients feel any pain during the procedure, anesthetists immediately give them a painkiller shot.

  • Place said waking up from the surgery was more abrupt than she’d expected. “It was like I was really in the mountains and then ‘poof,’ it was over,” Place said, laughing.

    Published by CBS news. To read from original link and see related images please click here.


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Is it Panic Disorder or something else?


Source: Photo by Abigail Keenan on Unsplash from original link

Experiencing panic attacks doesn’t mean you have Panic Disorder.

I frequently have people come to me having already self-diagnosed themselves as having Panic Disorder because they have panic attacks. Although some people are right, just as frequently, they’re wrong.

Briefly, a panic attack is a sudden rush of acute fear and anxiety accompanied by physical symptoms such as shortness of breath, dizziness, tightness in the chest, tingling, nausea and other stomach distress, shaking, and sweating. During a panic attack, someone may be aware of thoughts spinning in their head (we’ll talk more about these in a bit) and they likely have some type of behavioral reaction (avoidance of the situation either immediately or later on).

Panic attacks usually come on quite quickly, build to a peak in approximately five to 20 minutes, and then subside. It’s not uncommon to hear people say that their panic attacks last a lot longer; however, it’s probably the after effects of the attack that they’re feeling, such as residual anxiety and increased alertness to bodily sensations, rather than the panic attack itself.

So, if a person is experiencing panic attacks, and it’s not Panic Disorder, what else might it be?

Panic attacks can be a feature of all of the anxiety disorders. For example, a panic attack in the context of Social Anxiety Disorder may be fueled by a fear of others witnessing the attack: “What if others notice how anxious I am and they think I’m weak?” or “I’m making a fool out of myself.” A panic attack in the context of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder may be triggered by a fear of being contaminated: “I just touched a doorknob. It’s probably covered with germs. I’m going to get sick.” In contrast, someone with Generalized Anxiety Disorder is likely to get triggered by a fear of uncertainty such as, “What if my cancer comes back?”, which can spiral out of control and end up in a full-blown panic attack. Compare these situations with a panic attack in an actual Panic Disorder. In this case, the person is most likely to be focusing on their body being out of control, fearing that they may pass out or die. In fact, many people end up in the Emergency Room believing they’re having a heart attack. To summarize, the key to knowing what anxiety disorder is at play lies in understanding the root fear.  

Sometimes it helps to have a psychologist help you sort this out. But it can also be good to gather some data on your own. One good way to do this is to keep a thought diary. You can read a whole post about keeping thought diaries here. Briefly, you just note the situation you had the panic attack, what thoughts were going through your mind, and any other variable you can think of that might be pertinent (Did you sleep enough last night?; When did you last eat?; What type of mood are you in? Did the panic attack seem to be triggered by a certain situation or seem to come from “out of the blue”? What did you do after the panic attack?)

And finally, panic attacks and anxiety, in general, can mimic several physical problems, such as thyroid problems to name just one example. I always ask my clients to get a thorough physical before we start any type of treatment for an anxiety disorder.

Posted Feb 13, 2018 at Psychology Today. To read from original link, please click here.
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Beat commitment phobia by being true to yourself

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The article below describes a personal reflective process which may help us build healthy relationships. With the help of hypnosis this process may become more methodical, clearer and more efficient. Please visit the pages of this blog or contact us directly if you want to find out more about hypnosis and hypnotherapy.

Healthy relationships shouldn’t feel like a trap.

Marilee, a client of mine, was a commitment-phobe.

“I’d love to be in a loving relationship,” she told me in one of our counseling sessions, “but I’m not willing to give up my freedom. I have a great life. I love my work and my friends. I love to travel and take workshops and classes. I don’t want anyone telling me what I can or can’t do. I don’t want to deal with someone feeling hurt because I want to work rather than be with him. It’s just not worth all the hassle.”

Marcus, another client of mine, also experienced fear of commitment.

“When I’m not in a relationship, that’s all I can think about it. I really want someone to play with, to love and to grow with, but soon after getting into a relationship, I start to feel trapped. I feel like I can’t do what I want to do, and I start to resent the person for limiting me,” he confides.

“Most of the time, she has no idea what’s going on and is stunned by the break-up. She thought everything was fine. After leaving her, I’m back to square one — wanting to be in a relationship. This has happened over and over again.”

Fear of commitment, known as commitment phobia, has its roots in the belief that when we love someone, we are responsible for their feelings rather than for our own.

Once we believe that we are responsible for another’s feelings of hurt or rejection as a result of our behavior, we believe we need to limit ourselves in order to not upset the other person. Then, instead of standing up for our own freedom and right to pursue that which brings us joy, we limit our freedom in an effort to have control over the other person’s feelings. This will always eventually lead to resentment.

“Marilee,” I asked in one of our phone sessions, “What if you picked someone who also loved his work and his personal freedom?”

“Frankly, I can’t imagine that. Every man I’ve been in a relationship with has wanted to spend more time with me than I have with him. Am I just picking the wrong man over and over?”

“No,” I replied. “But from the beginning you are not standing firm in your commitment to your freedom. You give a lot at the beginning because you enjoy being with him, but, as we’ve discussed, you also give yourself up a lot at the beginning. You make love when you don’t want to. You stay up later than you want to for fear of hurting him.”

“Then, when you do start to tell him the truth, he’s surprised and hurt,” I explained. “Until you’re willing to risk losing him from the beginning rather than lose yourself, you will continue to create relationships that limit your freedom. You end up believing that the relationship is what limits you, but it’s your own fears and beliefs that keep limiting you.”

How to Know If You’re Really Ready for a Relationship

Similarly, in my sessions with Marcus, he discovered that he had no idea how to stand up for himself in a relationship. As soon as a woman wanted something from him, he gave it to her. He just could not bring himself to say no. Then, of course, he ended up feeling trapped.

Ultimately, Marcus’s fear of commitment stemmed from two main sources:

  1. He believed he was responsible for her feelings, and that he was a bad and selfish person if he did anything that upset her.
  2. He was afraid that if she felt hurt, she would get angry and reject him.

As a result of these two fears, Marcus continually gave up on himself in relationships. However, giving himself up created such resentment toward his partner that he eventually didn’t want to be with her anymore and left the relationship.

In order to have both our personal freedom and be in a committed relationship, we need to learn to take responsibility for our own feelings rather than the other person’s feelings, and we need to be willing to lose the other person rather than lose ourselves.

Commitment phobia heals when you become strong enough to be true to yourself, even in the face of another’s anger or rejection.

If you want to have a loving relationship, then you need to do the Inner Bonding work necessary to develop a strong adult self who can be a powerful advocate for your personal freedom.

Published by Psych Central, please click here for accessing original link.

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Hypnosis: The restorative ritual that keeps film star Kevin Bacon happy and able to snooze like a baby

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Image: Wikipedia original link

Getting quality sleep isn’t easy. Between your S.O. stealing the blankets, your dog hogging the bed, and a billion things running through your mind, waking up feeling totally refreshed is basically like winning a gold medal (read: it’s hard to come by). That’s exactly why when Kevin Bacon wasn’t catching enough zzz’s, he decided to give hypnosis a try.

Believe it or not, hypnosis isn’t just a way to get people to embarrass themselves onstage by showing off their best dance moves or quacking like a duck at the snap of some fingers. The restorative ritual—which puts you in a trance-like state that makes you more open to suggestions—actually offers plenty of benefits, like reducing stress, helping with addiction, or even getting rid of pain. But for Bacon, hypnosis has led to some of the best sleep of his life.

“I recently started exploring hypnosis apps, at first because I was having trouble sleeping, and it helped me with that. Then I started to see a hypnotherapist in person.” —Kevin Bacon


“I recently started exploring hypnosis apps, at first because I was having trouble sleeping, and it helped me with that. Then I started to see a hypnotherapist to see what it was like to actually do it with a person,” the actor told Women’s Health. “I find hypnotism to be really fascinating and powerful—in terms of health, sleep, and relaxation, but also in terms of happiness and inner peace.”

While there are plenty of apps that claim to be able to send you into a trance to enjoy benefits like better sleep and decreased anxiety, a systematic review published in the International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis found there’s not any evidence that they actually work. If you do want to fix your sleep schedule through hypnosis, consider meeting with an expert face-to-face first for the best results.

According to this doc, the super-simple way to biohack your body starts with sleep. Or, check out these eight dreamy places to sleep in nature.


 Tehrene Firman, February 8, 2018. To read from original link please click here.

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