In 2012, researchers at Northwestern University set out to determine how much the clothes you wear impact the way you think.
They randomly assigned subjects to wear either a white lab coat or street clothes, then tested what’s known as “selective attention” with a test that challenged them to notice incongruities, such as when the word “red” appears in the color green. Those who wore the lab coat made around half as many errors as those in their street clothes.
In a follow-up experiment, the researchers went a little further: all groups got an identical white coat, but one group was told it was a doctor’s coat and was asked to look at it, one group was told it was a doctor’s coat and wore it, and the last group was told it was a painter’s smock and wore it. All groups were then asked to spot differences between similar pictures as quickly as possible. Sure enough, the group who wore the “doctor’s coat” found the most differences.
The researchers named this phenomenon “enclothed cognition” in a hat-tip to the scientific field known as “embodied cognition”—that is, the way that our physical experience affects our thought processes, such as the way someone holding a hot drink is more likely to judge others as having warm personalities. While the fact that wearing something you associate with intelligence can make you sharper is surprising, researchers still aren’t sure what would happen if you wore that clothing every day, so more study is needed. Explore how clothes affect you with the videos below.
How Your Clothes Affect The Way You Think
Hear about the many studies looking at unclothed cognition.
Why Don’t Men Wear Bright Colors?
The males of the animal kingdom do it. Why don’t the males of the human species?
More About Enclothed Cognition
Discover the strange ways the clothes you wear affect the thoughts you think.