Body posture affects perception of hierarchical status.
When people expand, they are perceived as dominant. Expansion can be achieved, for example, by moving arms or legs laterally away from the body. We often see such open poses in leaders with high status and consider them taller.
When people shrink and take up less space, they are perceived as submissive with low status. They have a hunchback posture, keep their limbs close to their bodies and cross them. People in closed poses appear shorter.
A man who is judged to be 6′0″ when showing high status cues might be judged to be 5′11″ when showing low status cues1
To adopt open poses, try following:
- Place feet in medium or wide position, opening up groin area and waist.
- Keep torso and neck straight, shoulders slightly back, and round chest.
- Avoid crossing arms and legs too much.
Experiments have also demonstrated that actors in photographs have a larger stature in open poses when standing, as opposed to sitting.
However, extremely wide poses can be perceived negatively.2 For example, when they disrupt subordination. It is probably better for women to choose moderate levels of openness as well. Although signals of status are similar for both genders, effect of wide poses is weaker in women.
Tiedens, Larissa Z.; Fragale, Alison R. (2003). Power moves: Complementarity in dominant and submissive nonverbal behavior.. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(3), 558–568. doi:10.1037/0022-35188.8.131.528 ↩