Three years ago Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist and associate professor at the Harvard Business School, garnered a lot of attention for a TED Talk on body language and power posing: the idea that adopting the physical poses associated with power and dominance will eventually increase one’s own sense of power. Her research found that mimicking such postures for as little as two minutes not only changes testosterone and cortisol levels but also increases confidence and improves the brain’s ability to cope in stressful scenarios. “Fake it until you become it,” she told the TED Talk audience.

In 2013, Business Insider named Cuddy one of its “50 Women Who Are Changing the World.” Numerous literary agents and publishers encouraged her to write a book about power posing, but she wasn’t ready. “You write a book when it’s in your head and you’re ready to put it on paper,” Cuddy says. “It couldn’t just be a kernel that built into something bigger. I wanted to have the whole thing in my head, and I wanted it to be organic.”

After the talk Cuddy also heard from a lot of men and women who weren’t part of the business world. They hadn’t gone to college, and some couldn’t even afford to buy a book. “Their feedback completely changed my understanding of what I was studying,” Cuddy says. She realized that her work didn’t have to be all about the science, that it could be accessible to the average person.

Too often researchers get lost in their work without thinking of how it can be applied practically. “It’s an echo chamber,” Cuddy says. “They don’t get any sense of how the work is applied outside of the lab because they don’t understand how it works. Or they’re not connecting it at all.” In her newly released book, Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges (Little, Brown), she tries to bring together both the science and the practical applications.

Before Cuddy began researching nonverbal behavior, she studied stereotyping and sexism. But they “depressed” her. She wanted to focus her work on empowering others. Based on her own insecurities and experiences, she says that she knows the importance of “scientifically based psychological tools to help people protect themselves.”

Cuddy grew up in a small, rural Pennsylvania town and often felt out of place at Princeton, where she earned her master’s and Ph.D. When she was an undergraduate she suffered a traumatic brain injury in a car crash. Doctors told her that she’d never recover, and her IQ dropped temporarily.

“So the fit for me is helping people who lack power find the power they have, to get in touch with their own personal power,” Cuddy says. She sees the book’s message as helpful for everyone from retirees to businesspeople who are unsatisfied with their work lives. “If people aren’t able to be their strongest, best selves, it isn’t just hurting them,” Cuddy says. “It’s hurting everyone.”

See Cuddy’s breakfast keynote on Monday, January 25, 7:45–9 a.m. in Plaza Ballroom A, B, C.