Researchers have identified a series of psychological changes that occur when we wear certain clothes

Posted on April 19, 2016

Photo: flickr

Research into the impact of clothes on behavior now suggests that there may actually be a grain of truth in sayings such as "look good, feel good". Science says that the clothes we wear affect our behavior, attitudes, personality, mood, confidence, and even the way we interact with others. This known as is “Enclothed Cognition“.

The term Enclothed Cognition is used to describe the effect that our clothes seem to have on various psychological processes like emotions, self evaluations, attitudes, and interpersonal interactions. Clothes affect our behavior and our moods because of the symbolic meaning that society ascribes to different types of attire. Not only do we evaluate people we have just met based on their attire and the occasion, but we also evaluate ourselves based on what we are wearing at the time; because of the way our attire makes us feel. This means that the experience of wearing something subtly affects our attitudes and our choice of behavior.

Wearing 'power clothing' such as formal office wear makes us feel more confident and even increases hormones needed for displaying dominance. Hence, helping us become better negotiators and more abstract thinkers.

While a tailored suit may bolster your confidence, it may not be the best attire for socialising. Research shows that people tend to be less open and find it more difficult to relax when they wear formal clothes. A casual dress code for work helps us become more friendly and creative. Showing that casual Fridays aren't just for fun.

Any kind of clothing that is associated with a specific role activates all our knowledge and expectations about how people from that profession should behave. For instance, wearing a lab coat during an experiment may make one more attentive to the task at hand because lab-coats represent serious, attentive professions like scientists and doctors. This does not only apply to adults. In Kenya, school children were more likely to attend school and perform better when they were given uniforms to wear. This could be because school uniforms made school much more real and valuable to them.

Similar to how clothes can make us behave in a manner to suit their respective occupations, they can also affect our perceived social status and even our political views and attitudes. In one study, women who were asked to carry a Prada handbag identified more with conservative, capitalist values than a control group who were given a non-luxury handbag. The women were also less likely to help others if it did not improve their status. The researchers believe that this could be because people unconsciously attempt to behave in ways that are congruent their look. So essentially, if we dress for the role, we will start to live it.

Other than changing our perception of ourselves, the clothes we wear can also affect our mood. Research says the quickest little fix for a bad day is to wear brightly colored clothes. Cheerful colors work as a mini pick-me-up; and thus boosting our mood and energy. Also, we associate bright colors with happiness, sunny days, and carefree times (like the summer vacations when we were kids).

Amazingly, even hidden clothes like our socks and underwear can influence our self-perception and confidence. Wearing something we perceive as sexy can make us feel more self assured, more powerful and more confident.

Even copying someone else's style can help with self-confidence. If we dress like someone we consider to have positive qualities (such as being smart or powerful) we may emulate those qualities as well. That’s certainly an argument for owning clothes that bring out the best in us.


Source material from Brain Fodder