Did Grey's Anatomy Get It Right With The Superhero Pose?
We all have seen an added dose of stretching of the truth or flat out lies throughout the history of medically centered television and movies. Causing us to change the channel or annoying everyone else in the room with our reflexive statements of “that’s not true!” or “that’s not how it REALLY is done!”. In this article, I did some research around the “Superhero Pose” from an episode in this past season of Grey’s Anatomy. Is there any science to prove the pose actually does what the show claims? I think you will be surprised just like I was!
As I was catching up on this past season of Grey's Anatomy, Amelia Shephard is about to start a marathon of a surgical procedure. Right before she is about to go into the operating room, she clenches her fists, places them on her hips, puffs up her chest, and stands tall with a powerful look on her face. One of the residents who is confused by this behavior asks her why she is doing what she is doing, Amelia states, "a scientific study showed that if you stand in the superhero pose for 5 minutes before a job interview, presentation or difficulty task, you will not only feel more confident you will perform measurably better".1 After this fact is stated, the resident buys this fact, and joins her in the superhero pose.
Here is the clip from the Episode
Amelia and Stephanie are Superheroes Videos | Grey's Anatomy TV - ABC.com
As most healthcare professionals can pick apart when medical shows are right on, stretching the truth a little and just flat out wrong. When I initially saw the "superhero pose" I immediately placed it in the, shake of the head, chuckle to myself and the, "come on really!?" response. Even though this was my initial response, I did stop and ask myself, "What if this is true?" It really is no cost, can be done anywhere and could be a tool nurses could use it to boost their confidence and have a positive impact on the patients they are taking care of.
So my research began. . .
Much to my surprise, after some digging around, I came across a TED Talk conducted by Amy Cuddy. Amy holds a PhD in Psychology from Princeton University and currently is a professor at Harvard Business School.2 In her TED Talk, Amy discusses how dominance and power is shown in the animal kingdom and how that is also reflected in humans. Amy shows this by giving examples of animals and humans show power and dominance by expanding their body.2 Followed by showing how animals and humans show feelings powerless by wrapping ourselves up and making oneself smaller.2 Amy's hypothesis was, if you stay in a high power pose for two minutes, to what degree does it affect hormone levels in your body.2 The hormones studied were the dominance hormone, testosterone, and the stress hormone, cortisol.2
In the study, saliva samples were taken, then participants either did a high power pose for two minutes or a low power pose for two minutes, offered a chance to gamble, then another saliva sample was taken.2 In the high power posing group testosterone levels increased by 20% and cortisol levels decreased by 10% and 86% were willing to gamble.2 In the lower power posing group the exact opposite occurred, the levels of testosterone decreased by 25% and the levels of cortisol increased by 15% and only 60% of participants were willing to gamble.2 Also when this was further studied, the concept was applied to candidates using high power poses or low power poses before an extremely difficult job interview. Can you guess what occurred? The group of job candidates who posed in a high power pose for two minutes were chosen for the job over the candidates in the low power posing group.2
Here is a diagram, showing the different High Power Poses vs. Low Power Poses3
I encourage EVERYONE who is reading this article to take the time to watch the TED Talk below of Amy Cuddy discussing her research proving the validity of power posing.
Amy Cuddy: Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are
Wow, wow, wow! Who knew! I could not have been more wrong with my above skepticism! Every time I watch the above video, I simply am amazed, inspired and motivated. As Amy states, people only need "their bodies, privacy, and two minutes." I believe if nurses were to work high power posing into their daily routine, multiple times a day if possible, they would see an improvement in their own leadership ability and increase their overall feelings of courage to engage in difficult conversations with colleagues. A difficult task all nurses face everyday. This will then organically weave its way into your daily practice as a nurse also. Improving the quality of care you are able to deliver to your patients, leading to, improvements in patient outcomes.
Keep up the great work Shonda Rhimes and the entire Grey's Anatomy team! I have been a fan from day one and I look forward to all of the future seasons to come!
Michael M. Heuninckx RN-BSN
If you like this article then you might want to check out Michael's new book for nurses...
Code Blue! Now What? Learn What To Do When Your Patients Need You The Most!Last edit by Joe V on Jun 15, '18
Poll: Will you now be implementing one of the high power poses into your nursing practice?
Joined: Oct '14; Posts: 44; Likes: 337
Registered Nurse; from US
Specialty: Emergency DepartmentJul 2, '15We actually were taught about this in my nursing classes by one of our professors. She was fantastic, always up on the newest research, and I was so excited when I saw it on Grey's after we had learned about it!Jul 2, '15I hate admit it but when I'm studying I relate almost everything back to Greys Anatomy or House. LolJul 2, '15Never seen Greys Anatomy or any other medical "drama" since the 2nd or 3rd season of ER around 20 years ago.
I have enough drama to deal with in real life, much less watching actors doing it wrong (one of the actors was intubating with the scope in his right hand).
As for the "high power pose" I already do that, but never heard it called that. I just thought it was called being confident and having good self esteem (or as jaycam said, fake it till you make it).Jul 3, '15Wow my professor actually told us to do this before exams! Lol who knew it actually worked.Jul 3, '15Greys Anatomy is a fantastic documentary series about the true goings on in a hospital based in Seattle.
I learn so much about nursing just from watching and put a lot of elements from the show in my practice.Jul 3, '15Quote from thenightnurse456Greys Anatomy is a fantastic documentary series about the true goings on in a hospital based in Seattle.
I learn so much about nursing just from watching and put a lot of elements from the show in my practice.
umm... are you joking or being serious?Jul 3, '15I believe that the previous comment was in reference to being able to single out when something in the show is true, and what is not. I also believe that you can learn and practice your knowledge by watching some of these shows. Now that is just my opinion and everyone is entitled to their own.Jul 3, '15Quote from jaycamIndeed! I do think though that Amy Cuddy would change the wording a little bit as she did in her TED Talk. Amy states "don't fake it till you make it" "fake it till you become it"Yes! It's the whole fake it until you make it in action. Plenty of studies back it up.
Michael M. Heuninckx RN-BSNJul 3, '15So according the study, those who did a "power pose" showed more dominance and a higher potential for risk taking. I'm not sure I really want my surgeon imposing an increased sense of invincibility combined with risk taking just prior to doing surgery on me.Jul 4, '15Quote from MunoRNCertainly depends on the surgery. But in some cases risk taking does save lives or prolongs them. I've seen this a lot in reviewing op notes for tumor removals. The surgeons usually don't know what they are getting themselves into so to speak when they open up s person riddled with mets so they have to think on their ties And make judgment calls that seen risky and "rogue" at the time - like taking significant portions of bowel when faced with 50+ mets.So according the study, those who did a "power pose" showed more dominance and a higher potential for risk taking. I'm not sure I really want my surgeon imposing an increased sense of invincibility combined with risk taking just prior to doing surgery on me.Jul 6, '15Quote from ohioSICUrnShe is as serious as a heart attack.umm... are you joking or being serious?
Must Read Topics