Stanford Experiment and "Friends" Show Proves that Uniforms Affect How We Act

[caption id="attachment_794" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Stanford Prison Experiment Image source:[/caption] Issuing a uniform to your employees has a whole host of benefits, but it can also be a double-edged sword if you aren't careful. Uniforms have the power to transform you into a completely different person. I'm not being overly dramatic when I say that -- I've got the science to back it up.   More than likely you've heard of the famous (or "infamous" if you prefer) Stanford prison experiment. Back in 1971, a team of researchers led by Philip Zambardo set out to collect data about the psychological impacts of becoming a prisoner or a prison guard. Twenty-four male students were randomly assigned to act as either a guard or a prisoner.   Now, before we get too far into this, it's important to keep in mind that these young men were all willing participants. They got paid the equivalent of $85 each day to participate in the study (I've seen some pretty clever strategies for paying off student loans, but no amount of money justifies what the participants had to go through). The volunteers were mostly white men from the middle class, and all of them had strong health records. So, basically, they were are all average Joes.   What happened next shocked the world. Within days, the participants who were dressed as guards and the participants who were dressed as prisoners experienced dramatic personality shifts. The guards submitted the prisoners to various forms of physical and psychological torture -- they removed mattresses from the prisoners' cells to force them to sleep on the cold concrete, and some of the guards forced the prisoners to strip off all of their clothes as a means of degradation. [caption id="attachment_795" align="aligncenter" width="400"]Stanford Prison Experiment Image source:[/caption] To put it simply, a new uniform turned the guards into cruel torturers and a different uniform caused the prisoners to become passive. There were a whole host of different factors at play, certainly, but the uniforms were incredibly important. Zambardo wrote, "Indeed, as soon as some of our prisoners were put in these uniforms they began to walk and to sit differently, and to hold themselves differently -- more like a woman than like a man."   This is all a bit dark, so I think that Joey and Ross from "Friends" can do a better job of illustrating the phenomenon. In this episode, Ross (a scientist) got Joey a job as a tour guide, and their friendship was being tested because it was a faux pas for scientists to eat lunch with tour guides. You can watch the clip here. [caption id="attachment_804" align="aligncenter" width="512"]Friends Joey and Ross Image source:[/caption] You should keep these factors in mind when you order custom embroidered uniforms. Obviously, I'm not saying that employees who wear custom polo shirts will act totally different from employees who wear embroidered t-shirts and the two groups will hate each other, but you can expect different uniforms to provoke slightly different behavior patterns in your employees. The Stanford prison experiment proved that what you wear and what your peers are wearing can dramatically impact your psychology.   Of course, you can always use that to your advantage. As long as it's a privilege to wear a uniform, then your employees are likely to have a positive reaction to putting on a uniform.  The prisoners reacted negatively to their degrading uniforms, but by all reports the guards actually enjoyed wearing their authoritative uniforms.   Overall, just be mindful of the power of clothing. It's not that uniforms are bad, it's that they're extremely effective at getting people into a certain mindset. As long as you pair your company's uniform with a productive and optimistic mindset, then you can use custom uniforms to promote a cheerful working environment.
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