How Your Body Language Can Help Your IQ

Body Language

Forget humble bragging about your Mensa-level IQ; new research suggests that the most successful (and envied) people are the ones who have mastered the art of good body language. If you’ve devoted your adult life to academia or professional pursuits this may seem anathema to you, but bear with me, because when you can combine natural intelligence with emotional intelligence, you will be practically unstoppable.

According to recent studies by Harvard psychologist Amy Cuddy, posture, eye contact and certain well-timed gestures can add an air of confidence to even the most intellectually challenged people, making them seem smarter and more engaging as a result. Cuddy found that people who made a conscious effort to use positive body language were perceived as being more likable, more competent, and more persuasive in both professional and social situations. The biggest brains in the world are no match for this kind of influence.

Just like a data room improves the organization of document workflow, a proper body language can increase your concentration and brain activity. Read on to find out how!

What do we mean by ‘positive body language’?

Positive body language broadly refers to any non-verbal cues which demonstrate openness and enthusiasm, while actively engaging with the other person (or group of people) in your company. For instance, maintaining eye contact with your audience, and making positive movements such as nodding, smiling and leaning in slightly, to show that you are listening to what the other person has to say. Other key tips include keeping your arms by your side instead of crossing them, and using your hands to emphasize key words (think Obama in speech mode). A relaxed posture gives the impression that you are at ease with yourself, and makes others feel more comfortable in your company, while a short, firm (but not crippling) handshake gives you instant credibility with the person you are meeting.

By training yourself to work these behaviors into your day-to-day life, you will exude confidence and intelligence in the eyes of others, figuratively adding an extra 20 points on to your IQ!

So how does it work?

Cuddy collated research from a number of top universities to prove how positive body language can have a physical and emotional impact on confidence and attitude. Here are some of her results.

  1. Positive body language boosts testosterone

Cuddy took a group of 42 students and asked them to imitate certain ‘high power’ (for instance, standing with their legs apart and hands on their hips) and ‘low power’ poses (for instance, sitting cross-legged and cross-armed on a chair). She then measured their levels of testosterone and cortisol, and compared the results. According to this test, the students who adopted a ‘high power’ pose for at least two minutes showed a 20 per cent increase in testosterone levels, while the ‘low power’ posers saw their testosterone levels decrease.

Testosterone is sometimes called the male ‘sex hormone’, but it is just as important in women too. Slightly raised testosterone levels can make a person appear more trustworthy and attractive, a vital tool when you want to stand out in a crowd!

2. Positive body language can decrease cortisol levels

In the same study, the students were also tested for cortisol levels before and after adopting ‘high’ or ‘low’ power poses. Cortisol is the hormone which controls stress. When we are in a dangerous or stressful situation, it tends to spike, raising blood pressure and tensing the muscles. Obviously, this has a noticeable effect on posture and body language, giving the impression that we are stiff and uncomfortable.

Cuddy’s research showed that after adopting a ‘high power’ pose for two minutes, cortisol levels decreased by as much as 25 per cent – so it might be worth ducking into the bathroom for a quick posing session before your next presentation!

3. Positive body language makes you more likeable

A separate study at Tufts University showed subjects a series of soundless clips of doctors interacting with patients. Based on their body language alone, they were able to guess which doctors ended up getting sued, and which ones were well liked by their patients. By simply following different patterns of body language, these doctors were sealing their fate by wordlessly telling their patients that they were trustworthy, or not.

4. Positive body language conveys competence

Yet another study, at Princeton this time, found that positive body language made politicians appear more competent and electable. Subjects were shown a one-second clip of various candidates for senate or governor, and they were able to accurately predict who was elected 70 per cent of the time.

5. Positive body language can be a powerful tool in negotiation

Harvard researchers studied the effects of body language in negotiation situations. They found that face-to-face communication of any kind (even via Skype) incredibly important when it you are trying to bring people around to your way of thinking. Again, positive body language conveyed trust and honesty, while negative body language was viewed with suspicion.

6.Positive body language improves your ability to communicate

Dr Travis Bradberry has written several books on the subject of emotional intelligence, and he has come to the conclusion that the ability to effectively communicate emotions and ideas is central to emotional intelligence. This will make you appear more engaged and interesting, and will help you to develop stronger relationships over time.


While you can’t fake intelligence, you can clearly enhance your natural assets with just a few quick and easy tricks. By paying more attention to your body language, you can appear more confident, competent, trustworthy and authoritative. And surely that’s the smartest thing you can possibly do for yourself.

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