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Social psychology says Blaine Gabbert will do well in his first 49ers’ start

Blaine Gabbert might have the hormones to succeed on Sunday (49ers.com).

Blaine Gabbert might have the hormones to succeed on Sunday (49ers.com).

According to Harvard professor and social psychologist Amy Cuddy’s research, 49ers quarterback Blaine Gabbert could do very well in his opening start this Sunday at Levi’s Stadium.

Cuddy would likely surmise that Gabbert, who is starting in place of the ineffective Colin Kaepernick against the Falcons, has a high level of testosterone and low level of cortisol. Testosterone makes one feel dominant and confident, high levels of cortisol make one unable to adapt to stressful situations. Quarterbacking is the essence of adapting to the stress of finding an open receiver through a maze of bodies moving at full speed, while 290-pound defenders bear down upon you with menace in their souls.

Cortisol levels drop and testosterone levels rise when someone feels supported and constantly told they can do the task ahead of them. Gabbert has undoubtedly had a week of such support.

Many quarterbacks perform well when they are first inserted into a game. Kaepernick himself coolly checked through his progression and found open receivers in his first NFL start against Chicago. He completed 16 of 23 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns and no interceptions in the win.

However, once higher expectations crept into Kaepernick’s consciousness and once he lost confidence after a few bleak performances, his testosterone likely dropped while his cortisol hormone probably rose.

Cuddy became curious about environment and body posture when F.B.I. agent Joe Navorro told her that police investigators often sit in big chairs to make them more imposing when interviewing suspects. Cuddy and fellow researchers Dana R. Carney and Andy J. Yap wanted to find out if body posture can make one feel more powerful. So, they asked subjects sit and stand in closed stances and then in open, more expansive postures.

Social Psychologist Amy Cuddy in a power pose (Brian Smith).

Social Psychologist Amy Cuddy in a power pose (Brian Smith).

The researchers found that those who exhibited “power” stances for more than two minutes increased their testosterone levels by 25 percent, while their cortisone levels dropped 35 percent. While Cuddy discovered that “power” stances can make one feel more powerful and more immune to pressure, so can being thrust into a dominant position, and that’s what’s happened to Gabbert.

Cuddy would also have a suggestion for Gabbert if he gets rag-dolled by a pass rusher on his first series. Once he gets to the sidelines, Gabbert should spend two minutes in a “Superman” pose – legs apart, hands on hips and head up in order to increase testosterone and lower cortisol. It might sound outrageous, but several follow-up studies have confirmed the power stance’s utility.

“I can’t believe the range of applications in which it works,” Cuddy told Time magazine.

The power stance could have a benefit to Gabbert. Also his new position of dominance should also peak the interest of fantasy players looking for an edge.

Twitter: @klynch49

Kevin Lynch

Kevin Lynch is in his 27th season covering the NFL, the San Francisco 49ers and Bay Area sports. He also is a guest radio host and pregame 49ers host on KNBR-AM San Francisco - the flagship station for the 49ers, San Francisco Giants, and Stanford football and basketball. Working mainly for sfgate.com, the San Francisco Chronicle's web site, Lynch is expanding into sports' biggest questions and hottest debates such as - LBGTQ acceptance, athlete criminality, the ethics of performance-enhancing drugs, marijuana, locker room culture, sports and gender, sports and sex, sports and money, sports and race, sports and social change and many other issues. He has written editorials on LBGTQ resistance in sports for the Chronicle and has appeared on KQED radio, Comcast Sports Bay Area and ESPN's Outside the Lines to talk about a variety of sports topics. He completed a Master's in Sociology at San Jose State in 2015, which included a thesis on LBGtT Resistant Attitudes and Behaviors in Sports.

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