Sit Up Straight! Be Confident!

New study finds slouchers make less confident self-evaluations.


New study finds slouchers make less confident self-evaluations.

At school all the cool kids were slouchers. No one wanted to be seen sitting up straight, paying attention or, heaven forbid making an effort to learn. It was only the geeks in the front row, hoovering up all that useless knowledge, who kept their backs straight. The rest were doing their best to reach the horizontal, and sometimes exceeding it.

The geeks were right, of course, damn them. That’s according to a new study just published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, which examines how people’s self-confidence is affected by the pose they strike.

Brinol et al. (2009) divided 71 students into four groups, then fed them a cover story about why they had to adopt two different poses: half slouching, the other half sitting up straight, chests puffed out. These two groups were then split again, and half were asked to write down three positive personal traits, the other half three negative personal traits.

This was designed to get half the participants thinking positively about themselves and the other half negatively. The question the researchers were interested in was if their posture affected whether they really believed the positive or negative things they were writing down about themselves.

To test this participants were then asked to rate themselves on whether they would be:

  • a good candidate for the job market,
  • a good interviewee for a new position,
  • a good performer on-the-job,
  • and a satisfied future employee.

The results showed that people who had been sitting up straight were much more likely to believe the positive things they’d been writing about themselves, whereas those who were slouching weren’t so sure. Meanwhile a doubtful posture had very little effect on the half who were thinking negatively about themselves.

Bad back

I’m in two minds about this research. One part of me says it’s another neat reminder that bodily position can feed back to our minds, it’s not just our bodies that reflect our mental state. But another part wonders what’s next after sitting up straight. Getting a haircut or a proper job? No thanks.

There is one consolation for all us lovers of the slouch though. According to the latest research sitting up straight all the time is now considered bad for your back.

Hah! In your face geeks!

Author: Jeremy Dean

Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology. He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book "Making Habits, Breaking Habits" (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks.

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