Magazine article Psychology Today

Dress to Impress Yourself

Magazine article Psychology Today

Dress to Impress Yourself

Article excerpt


Want to run the world? Start by tucking in your shirt.

WHEN IT COMES time for a job interview, most of us know to dress the part. But it's not only the effect on our potential employers we should be thinking about. Recent research suggests that our clothes don't influence just others- they change our own behavior as well. Phone interview? Rethink those slippers, and shine your shoes instead.

We know that the body's physical state can affect the mind (bite down on a pencil, and you can trick your brain into thinkingyou're smiling). Now Hajo Adam and Adam Galinsky, psychologists at Northwestern, take the science of embodied cognition to the next level- "enclothed cognition." It's not only your body that can shape your behavior, they report in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, but the shirt on your back as well.

To test whether an outfit could trigger particular behaviors, they studied the effects of wearing a lab coat- a garment associated with the attentiveness and care of doctors. Participants completed tasks like identifying the differences between two similar pictures while wearing the lab coat, looking at it, or doing neither. Performance improved significantly when subjects actually wore the garment- unless they were told it was a painter's coat. Adam and Galinsky suspect that both the symbolic meaningof clothes and the physical experience of wearingthem are key.

Outside the lab, it's hard to say what comes first- the choice of clothes or the state of mind. …

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