WASHINGTON – There could be an upside to being confined to that tiny cubicle at work: It may make you less likely to cheat. A new study in the Psychological Science journal finds that sitting at a large workspace or in a big seat in a car can make people feel more powerful — and therefore lead them to act more deceptively.
The research, titled “The Ergonomics of Dishonesty,” was led by Andy J. Yap of MIT (who conducted the research while at Columbia University) and Dana Carney of the University of California, Berkeley. With their collaborators, they found that in laboratory studies people who were asked to reach around a larger desk pad to complete a project were more likely to cheat when completing subsequent tasks than the participants who sat at smaller spaces.
This new research builds off other work around “power poses” that has been getting a lot of attention. News outlets have featured research by Yap, Carney and Harvard Business School professor Amy J.C. Cuddy. Their research focuses on the link between our minds and the sort of open, expansive poses that both humans and animals use to express power — the same body language that’s not inhibited when we’re seated in larger work spaces.
For instance, their research has found that power posing — leaning back with your feet propped up on a desk and your hands behind your head or lifting your chest and holding your head high — isn’t just a way of expressing authority to others. It can actually prompt it physically. Striking a power pose for even two minutes can increase testosterone levels by about 20 percent and decrease cortisol by about 25 percent, leaving those who do so feeling more confident, less stressed and more willing to take risks.