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Does what you wear affect how you act?

Yes. This study shows that while wearing clothes you associate with certain qualities, you will tend to embody those traits.

Lab coats are associated with attentiveness and carefulness. When people wore lab coats their scores on measures of both traits went up.

We introduce the term “enclothed cognition” to describe the systematic influence that clothes have on the wearer’s psychological processes. Providing a potentially unifying framework to integrate past findings and capture the diverse impact that clothes can have on the wearer, we propose that enclothed cognition involves the co-occurrence of two independent factors – the symbolic meaning of the clothes and the physical experience of wearing them. As a first test of our enclothed cognition perspective, the current research explored the effects of wearing a lab coat. A pretest found that a lab coat is generally associated with attentiveness and carefulness. We therefore predicted that wearing a lab coat would increase performance on attention-related tasks. In Experiment 1, physically wearing a lab coat increased selective attention compared to not wearing a lab coat. In Experiments 2 and 3, wearing a lab coat described as a doctor’s coat increased sustained attention compared to wearing a lab coat described as a painter’s coat, and compared to simply seeing or even identifying with a lab coat described as a doctor’s coat. Thus, the current research suggests a basic principle of enclothed cognition – it depends on both the symbolic meaning and the physical experience of wearing the clothes.

Source: “Enclothed Cognition” from Journal of Experimental Social Psychology

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About Eric Barker