Exciting New Research on “Enclothed Cognition” For Businesses

Reserach Participants Image source: Nytimes.com

Does clothing affect your brain? Yes, absolutely -- more than most people could ever imagine. New research has found that clothing can fundamentally alter your behavior. Understanding the powerful relationship between clothing and employee behavior can make the difference between a struggling business and a booming success.   Researchers have discovered what they call "enclothed cognition," which is “the systematic influence that clothes have on the wearer’s psychological processes.”  

The researchers gave a much more in-depth explanation in their abstract: “... we propose that enclothed cognition involves the co-occurrence of two independent factors — the symbolic meaning of the clothes and the physical experience of wearing them. As a first test of our enclothed cognition perspective, the current research explored the effects of wearing a lab coat. A pretest found that a lab coat is generally associated with attentiveness and carefulness. We therefore predicted that wearing a lab coat would increase performance on attention-related tasks.”  

That may sound a bit technical, but in a nutshell the clothes that you wear make you act more like the type of people who regularly wear that clothes as long as you have a strong mental image of how those people act. For example, wearing a police uniform will make people act more authoritative because they perceive policemen as being authoritative. Wearing a sports jersey will make people be more active because people perceive athletes as being energetic.  

Policemen in Uniform Image source: Vice.com

Another experiment showed just how much of an impact clothing can have in regular business interactions. Researchers found that “women who dress in a masculine fashion during a job interview are more likely to be hired, and a teaching assistant who wears formal clothes is perceived as more intelligent than one who dresses more casually.”   Clearly, clothing is an all-important two-way street. It can positively affect your own behavior and it can positively affect how others interact with you. The right outfit can literally make the difference in getting a grand slam in your interview, closing on a sale, attracting new customers, or appealing to a new business partner.  

Joshua I. Davis, an assistant professor of psychology at Barnard College, explained the phenomenon in something many of us can relate to: Halloween. During one Halloween, Professor Davis dressed up as a pimp in a fedora, a long coat, and a cane. He said that the clothing completely took over his psychology: “When I entered the room, I glided in. I felt a very different presence.”    Stylish Clothing Image source: Journal.stylealphabet.com

Just imagine the impact that custom clothing can have on your employees. Allowing your employees to show up in street clothes (even if they work office jobs and never interact with customers) can have a major impact on your bottom line. Enforcing a strict dress code or having all of your employees wear customized clothing can help them get into work mode and boost productivity.   Likewise, employees in sharp custom uniforms can encourage the public to hold a better opinion of your company. A snazzy uniform will make your company appear professional and well organized. With clothing having such a huge impact on human psychology, how can you possibly afford not to upgrade your business with custom clothing?

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