Polonius famously remarked that the apparel oft proclaims the man in Hamlet, and the modern world is awash with examples of the power of clothing as a means of affecting how others perceive us.
There is also the concept that our clothing affects how we think about ourselves. It’s often said for instance that if you work from home you should still dress as though you are going to the office, for this gets you in the right mindset for work.
New research suggests that clothing can impart a form of embodied cognition. The researchers tested the psychological power of wearing a white coat, a garment of clothing synonymous with scientists and their unique character traits. They wanted to know if wearing a lab coat would change the behaviour of the wearer.
The participants were asked to complete a Stroop Test, which is commonly used to measure an individual’s psychological performance. Half of the participants did the test wearing a lab coat, the other half were in their own clothes. Other than the lab coat there were no other differences between the two groups.
The results are quite amazing. The lab coat wearing group did significantly better on the test, producing half as many errors as the other group.
“Clothes can have profound and systematic psychological and behavioural consequences for their wearers,” the researchers said. Future research, they suggested, could examine the effects of other types of clothing: might the robe of a priest make us more moral? Would a firefighter’s suit make us braver?
So if this research is correct, what kind of uniform would make us better as managers? Ties for instance were traditionally a major part of a manager’s uniform, but appear to be on the wane in the modern workplace.
Have your say
So what would you regard as the modern managers uniform? What items of clothing could bestow the enclothed cognition benefit upon us?