New suit for an interview, sexy outfit for a date? It’s not difficult to work out that the power of clothing affects how other people perceive us. However, new research had been conducted into whether our clothes affect our own thoughts and this is known as embodied cognition.
The position and state of our bodies can affect our thoughts. For example, some people feel that cleaning their hands makes them morally purer. Research by Adam and Galinsky suggests that clothes can have a similar effect on our thoughts and this is known as enclothed cognition. The effects depend on 2 conditions:
1) symbolic meaning of the clothing
2) the actual wearing of the clothes
The research investigated the power of white coats, which are typically associated with scientists. 58 students took part in a test of their ability of selective attention, known as the Stroop test. The ink of a word must be named whilst ignoring the colour meaning of the word. Half of the students performed the task in a scientists white lab coat (they were told all participants had worn a lab coat), whilst other students wore their own clothes. Students in the lab coats made half as many errors on the critical trials of the Stroop test.
The participants were then tested on whether enclothed cognition which depends on the symbolic meaning of clothes and actually wearing them. Participants completed sustained attention tests that involved spotting differences between 2 similar images. The participants in the lab coats performed much better than others who merely saw the lab coat on the desk or others who wore the coat but were told it was a painter’s coat.
Does the new research findings mean other types of clothes could affect us in such ways, for example would wearing the robe of a priest make us more moral or would wear a police officers uniform make us more authoritarian? Despite this, I think that a true scientist should be able to make discoveries while wearing any type of clothes, not just a lab coat. It is the knowledge they use, not the power of the clothes they wear. Also the research depends on what the clothes mean to you. If you are an atheist wearing a priests robe may not make you more moral as the robe has no relevance to your personal beliefs.
Jarrett, C. (2012). Introducing “enclothed cognition” – How what we wear affects how we think. Retrieved from: http://bps-research-digest.blogspot.com/2012/03/introducing-enclothed-cognition-how.html