DRESS FOR SUCCESS USING ENCLOTHED COGNITION
Whether or not we realize it, our minds are constantly being changed and influenced by fashion. Think about it this way: if you walked past someone of average attractiveness, you’d form a very different opinion on them if they were wearing sweats and a beat-up t-shirt than if they were wearing slacks and a nice top. It’s unconscious, but it’s powerful. Fashion choices have a huge impact on how we think about not only other people, but ourselves as well.
We’ve all heard expressions such as, “Dress well, test well,” and “Dress for the job you want.” And while they are a bit silly, there is actually something to them. Studies have shown that the way you dress has a direct impact on your performance in certain areas, including physical, mental, and emotional. It’s an actual psychological phenomenon known as “enclothed cognition,” and what the research amounts to is that our fashion choices and those of others around us have a direct impact on our minds.
Enclothed cognition affects us in many different ways. For one, the clothes you wear can affect your mood. In the same way that feeling sad or lazy makes you want to wear sloppy clothes, or being in a good, happy mood makes you want to wear bright colors, the reverse is also true. An informal study by a psychology professor revealed that wearing clothes that fit you well, clothes with fun patterns, clothes made from natural fibers or in colors found in nature, and clothes or accessories that make us feel more individualistic naturally boost our mood when we wear them (Huffington Post). If you love the clothes you’re wearing and feel good in them, you’re more likely to feel good, and that positive energy will radiate outward, to both your own mind and the minds of those around you.
Clothes that we associate with a certain profession or activity have a similar effect. When you see someone wearing a well-fitting suit, you associate that person with a position of authority. You might think of someone wearing a lab coat as having good concentration or being very scientific, based on what you know of jobs performed wearing a lab coat. A person wearing loose, functional clothing might be assumed to be adventurous. You might even assign heroic values to someone wearing a superhero shirt. Our minds are influenced by this kind of fashion—we have certain ideas about the roles people in certain kinds of dress play. But it gets even better than that. Studies have shown that when you wear clothes that are understood to have certain values associated with them, your brain automatically starts to behave in those ways (Brain Fodder). For example, if two groups of people were tested on concentration and attention to detail—one group wearing lab coats and the other wearing street clothes—the group wearing lab coats score far higher than the one wearing street clothes. Similarly, wearing a superhero shirt can make you feel more confident, more likeable, and stronger. When you dress for a role, you subconsciously start to live it.
Fashion can also impact the choices you make. Carrying around athletic clothing makes you more likely to work out. More laid-back clothing can make you more spontaneous. Wearing business-type clothes might help you get more work done. These choices also send signals to other people about yourself and your values. Their perceptions of you will tend to match your fashion presentation.
Enclothed cognition is a form of nonverbal communication that helps change the minds of not only other people but ourselves as well. Fashion choices go much deeper than just aesthetics: they can inform your mood, your mental and physical performance, even your choices and habits. It’s something to think about next time you want to dress for success.