What a woman wears affects how she thinks

Posted July 04, 2012

What a woman wears affects how she thinks

A friend phoned me in a tizzy the other morning. She was going to an important networking event and couldn’t decide what to wear.

As we ruthlessly evaluated the entire contents of her wardrobe - tarty, bland, perfect! - I realised that there was more to selecting the ‘right’ outfit than simply looking good.
My friend kept repeating that she was expected to “contribute to an intellectual debate.” In her mind, there was a clear correlation between her ability to speak authoritatively and how she was dressed.

I couldn’t understand her reasoning (this is a woman who is never stuck for words) until I read about a phenomenon called “enclothed cognition.” It’s a term used to describe the connection between clothing and our cognitive processes. Mmmm … whoever would have thought that a woman’s mindset could be affected by what she wore? Ah, yes – psychologists!

According to psychologists, what we wear doesn’t just affect how other people perceive us; it also affects the way we think. Researchers tested this phenomenon by observing participants taking part in a series of attention tests. Half of the participants were asked to perform the tasks wearing a white lab coat, which was described to them as a doctor’s coat; the others wore their own clothes.

Bizarrely, the participants who wore the lab coat performed better at the tasks than those who didn’t. Adam Galinsky, the professor who led the study, said that, by wearing the coat, they took on “the symbolic meaning of what it means to be a doctor” - being careful, methodical and attentive. Is it really true that we are what we wear? I’m not so sure but I have a couple of experiments of my own I’d like to try out … …
For starters, if I’m ever put in charge of running a FTSE 100 company (unlikely, I know), I will invest in S&M costumes for all of my female employees. Forget about imposing mandatory quotas to encourage more female board directors. This is a much more efficient way to redress the gender bias because a woman who thinks like a dominatrix will soon whip any male opposition into submission.

And the next time my husband complains of man flu? I’ll slip into a Scottish Widow outfit. This is bound to help me conjure up fortitude in the face of tragedy (my husband’s imminent demise).  And the sight of me gliding towards him in my full-length black cape and voluminous hood, smiling enigmatically, might radically alter his mindset too - suddenly he feels a whole lot better!

Image: Scottish Sun

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