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.
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.