Making a Person Feel "Bigger" Turns Them into a Reckless Asshole
Brand X Pictures/Stockbyte/Getty
Most of us can spot brash, confident people on sight. They stand tall, make big hand gestures, and fill as much space as possible. Everything about their posture, body language, and mannerisms say "I am the goddamned center of the universe! Everyone stop and notice me!" Likewise, you can spot nervous, timid people by how much they try to scrunch away and avoid notice. You find them slouched over, looking down, trying to find a corner to hide in. Well, believe it or not, you can actually change a person's attitude toward the world by forcing their body language in one direction or the other.
"Don't think of it as a back brace; it's a confidence booster!"
Researchers conducted an experiment published in the journal Psychological Science in which they had a group of subjects perform some stretching exercises (under the pretense that they were really studying the effects of stretching) and then randomly selected them to adopt either wide or contracted postures.
Prior to the commencement of the exercise, the participants were told they would be paid $4, but after the stretching exercises, the researchers deliberately overpaid them $8 in a way that looked like a mistake (by throwing in a $5 bill). Seventy-eight percent of the people who were put in the big, expanded, confident body positions kept the money. Only 38 percent of the other group did.
Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Wavebreak Media/Getty
"You certainly seem like a bold, confident young woman. Get lost, we don't hire thieving bastards here."
This effect might also explain another phenomenon close to our hearts -- why people who drive SUVs are such insufferable, reckless douches on the road. In another experiment, researchers recruited 71 subjects and sat them in realistic driving simulators, some with large seats like in an SUV or truck, and some with cramped seats like in a VW Beetle. Sure enough, the drivers in the large seats tended to drive more recklessly and were more likely to commit hit-and-runs rather than stop according to the rules.