Albert Nerenberg

Embodied Cognition | The Art of Altering Behaviour

TBOP2017 ⋅ 11:23 ⋅ Filmed May 10, 2017

Can you make yourself smarter, more confident, or more powerful? Can you make yourself happy? Delving into the science of Embodied Cognition, Canadian filmmaker, actor, and laughologist Albert Nerenberg explores the psychological effects that our dress, body language, and posture have not just on those around us, but on ourselves. Want to make yourself more intriguing — put on a pair of sunglasses. Want to make yourself feel happier — try a Gradient Laugh. Sometimes, simple and obvious ideas can have powerful unconscious effects. Albert covers how to understand this evolving science and use it to your advantage in this fun, participatory clip that has the audience roaring — literally — with laughter.

Further Reading

Power Poses

‘Gradient Laugh’
The Laughing Guru
A Brief Guide To Embodied Cognition: Why You Are Not Your Brain
Embodied Cognition: What It Is & Why It's Important
Creating for the Brain in the Body


[00:15] I became concerned with the science of how acting changes people, and I started noticing that there would be a pattern, if acting really does change people, then a lot of famous actors would probably have certain experiences.

[00:30] The science is called ‘Embodied Cognition”. It's a very simple idea on some level. It's the idea that there's no real separation between the body and the brain, that we live in a culture, or maybe an education system, that from an early age separates our brain from our body, and that this new science says they are actually connected, which is also kind of obvious. So if you don't mind, I would like that maybe you could indulge me, I'd like to demonstrate some of these exercises. I'd like to give an example.

[01:01] An example of this is that wearing glasses, and this is very obvious, can make you seem smarter, even though you're the same intelligence. Another example of this is that wearing sunglasses can make you look more intriguing. Another weird example of this is that dressing in a lab coat improves your marks on exams. I think that's if you’re in Science, I don't think it does if you're in Arts.

[01:29] This is a cool one I think. Smiling. There's now research that suggest that when you smile, even artificially, even if you just decide to smile, you change your brain chemistry to see more things to smile about. So you actually bias your brain towards finding more things to smile about by the artificial act of smiling. Does that make sense? I'll give you some other examples of these things.

[01:59] Here's an example of this thing called a ‘Gradient Laugh’, and this can actually be faked. People always ask me this, ‘can you fake your way to laughing’? And you very much can, and I'll demonstrate this, if you don't mind, if you can do this with me, I think it will warm us up, I hope. What you want to do is very gently, you want to make a ha ha ha sound, you go like this, (mimics low laughter), very good. The ‘Gradient Laugh’ is the idea that we start low and we gradually get louder. So very very quietly, as quietly as you can almost, take a deep breath in (mimics laughter). You guys are good, you're too good! So we start very quietly, like this (mimics increasing laughter). Very good, and now you're laughing for real.

[03:06] I'll give you another example, Power Posing. That's right, there's some power posers here. Fantastic! Wow, professionals! That's right! Holy Cow! Let me explain Power Posing. Power posing is an amazing theory, the theory is that people will read you as more powerful, as more influential, you'll do better at job interviews, you'll do better at public speaking, if you take more space. If you walk with big steps, literally taking up more of the stage, using big gestures, as opposed to small gestures where people actually, unconsciously, stop paying attention to you. It's weird. The idea is that power posing can be empowering for people. There is some controversy about the science, I should just mention that, but it's kind of intriguing. This is the Victory Pose (demonstrates Victory Pose).

[04:06] Can go back to the Power Poses? It's good if we all try these things, and just say how you feel, either to the person next to you, or to me. Try the power pose, it's feet akimbo, feet apart, hands on your hips, like that (demonstrates), that's right. How do you feel? According to Amy Cuddy, Psychologist at Harvard, within two minutes of assuming this posture, your testosterone levels raise at a detectable level in your blood. It's kind of amazing. I think something's going on, it's not exactly that, there's something going on just by assuming that pose. You may assume certain poses in yoga do the same thing, Cobra Pose in yoga has a similar effect.

[04:53] Try the Victory Pose, this is what, whoever the teams are that are going to win, or all the teams, they should do this because, the idea is that you are primed for winning things if you practice the Victory Pose. You go, (demonstrates Victory Pose while screaming) "yeah! We're going to win"; (crowd engages and also screams.) Are you victorious? Yes, you are! That's right, you're alive! Victory Pose!

[05:32] Now, try the Loser Pose, if you don't believe me that this affects you, try this one (demonstrates Loser Pose), this is Loser Pose, shoulders down, crouching low, look at that! What a bunch of losers! The Loser Pose has demonstrated to increase levels of anxiety and depression. If you don't believe me, I have a suggestion, walk around in a Loser Pose for about two or three days, just walk around like this, go to work, for just about two or three days and see how you feel. That's a Loser Pose.

[06:14] I thought this was intriguing, there's a study that suggests, they trick people, they have to be neutral in science so they trick people into making this hand gesture (signals a 'thumbs up' gesture) without knowing why they were doing it. They found out that if you make this hand gesture, I can do it with two hands, like this, if you make that gesture, try it, see how you feel. Apparently, you are more positively disposed to what you're looking at. You do this, you're like, yeah, that guy, he's an okay speaker. That's right, yeah, this night's going okay, yes. What's interesting is that even if you don't know why you're making that gesture, your chemistry is affected to change you. That's what's weird about it.

[07:03] I'm going to give you an example of a second pose they study, and I'm going to get you to make this pose as well. It's a very intriguing one. You're probably very familiar with it, it's this one (shows 'middle finger' gesture). What they discovered was that they tricked people into making this gesture, they tricked them without knowing why, and they found that of course, you're more negatively disposed to what you're looking at or pointing at if you do this without even knowing why. This is just an experiment, this is just a study, but I would like you to do this now if you could, even off in the balcony, we can all do this together, on the count of three, two, one…(shows middle finger). Yeah! Losers! Now, did you notice that you were more like, I don't know if this is so interesting anymore?

[07:57] I want to show you another example of this phenomena (middle finger gesture appears on screen), actually that was a demonstration, I just had that there in case someone did not know how to make the gesture. But now we're going to clear the air by making this one (thumbs up gesture), this is an air clearing gesture, it makes you happy, you feel good, excellent!

[08:16] I want to show you something else, one last thing that's kind of intriguing. This is called ‘Skeptical Eyes’, and there's a study that shows that if you're watching a presentation, for example, and you hold, artificially, a more skeptical expression. You're just faking it, because I know you wouldn't be doing that right now. You're just faking it, if you don't mind I'm going to ask you to just look at me very skeptically, squint your eyes, skeptical, and now here, I'll give you something to look at, so here's The Breakout Project facebook banner, now look at it with skeptical eyes. And do you notice that you're wonder, what's that about? Why? You're more skeptical, even though this was an artificial experiment. Now I'll ask you to do something else. This is Captain Obvious, eyes open, wide open, just a very arbitrary physical change, eyes wide open, same experiment, now look at the banner, eyes wide open, now how do you feel, wow, pretty good! Pretty nice banner! Now, we'll take it even a step further, eyes open, mouth open, try it now. How do you feel about the banner now? Take a look, is that not the greatest banner that you've ever seen? That is simply your physiology manipulating your brain, which is very very strange.

[09:47] I want to show you that example that I mentioned before, the banner, this is the banner, I was looking at it while I was setting this up and I noticed something interesting, hiding in plain sight. Look at the gesture that's being made in the banner, (mimics gesture in banner), it's like a hands up, I argue it's like a Victory Pose plus applause. But wait, look closer, what do you see over here, aha! Another pose. A very secret, underground, maybe subversive pose. Let's go a little bit closer, there it is. I think this, to me embodies the spirit, if I can leave you with one message, I'm just making this gesture ,'rock on' gesture., I'm just making this gesture to see how I feel, and I have some appropriate music.

[10:50] Plays AC/DC Thunderstruck


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