Massage and touch therapists understand that bodywork can effect positive changes in clients’ body mechanics and posture.

And that could mean greater success in the workplace, according to new research.

The research, from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, indicates that posture plays an important role in determining whether people act as though they are really in charge.

The research finds that “posture expansiveness,” or positioning oneself in a way that opens up the body and takes up space, activates a sense of power that produces behavioral changes in a person independent of their actual rank or hierarchical role in an organization, according to an Association for Psychological Science press release.

“During various tasks such as a word completion exercise and a blackjack game, participants with open body postures were thinking about more power-related words and generally took more action than those with closed body postures,” the press release noted.

“Although people in a high-power role reported feeling more powerful than did those in a low-power role, the manipulation of role power had little effect on action. These findings demonstrate that role and posture independently affect participants’ sense of power, but posture is more responsible for activating power-related behaviors.

This research is the first to directly compare the effect on behavior of having a high-power role versus being in a high-power posture. The paper is titled “Powerful Postures Versus Powerful Roles: Which is the Proximate Correlate of Thought and Behavior?” and appears in the January 2011 issue of Psychological Science

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