Should you dress how you want to feel, or simply dress how you feel? Three rules from our framework of fashion psychology to help you dress. Download Citation on ResearchGate | Enclothed cognition | We introduce the term “enclothed cognition” to describe the systematic influence that clothes have . The term Enclothed Cognition is used to describe the effect that our clothes seem to have on various psychological processes like emotions.

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Theory, Research, and Application in Positive Psychology. She operates a private practice helping people cultivate meaningful and fulfilling lives, and consults for organizations on how to create desired outcomes and increase well-being. Through her articles and speaking engagements, Emily translates psychological research enclotehd practical guidance and goal-directed strategies for the general public.

Emily’s articles are here. What are you wearing right now? How does it make you feel? Does what you wear affect your behavior? Researchers enclothex Northwestern University have found that the clothing we wear affects our psychological states, as well as our performance levels.

Clothes As Therapy: When & How Does Enclothed Cognition Work? – The Psychology of Fashion

Given their findings, individuals can intentionally choose to wear clothing that will induce more desirable psychological states and enhance task-related performance. Humans invented clothing at leastyears ago. How do we know? While clothing continues to serve the purpose of protecting human beings from adverse environmental circumstances think parkas for cold weather, hats for sunburns, chain link bodysuits when swimming with sharksthe functions of clothing are vast and varied.

Clothing styles and sometimes, requirements vary across geographical regions, between religions, genders, age groups, and professions. In our western culture, one large purpose of clothing is aesthetic style. What we wear can be an implicit non-verbal way to express our unique personalities. Embodied cognition experts have discovered that our thought processes are based on physical experiences that set off associated abstract concepts, including those generated by the clothing we wear.

Clothing can enhance our psychological states, and it can improve our performance on tasks. Adam and Galinsky conducted three studies, controlling for possible characteristics across participants that could inhibit the findings.

In their first study, they had two groups of participants. One group was instructed to put on a white lab coat, while members of the other group wore street clothes. Then the participants were given a test for selective attention that measured their abilities to notice incongruities. The participants who wore the white lab coats made almost half as many errors as those participants who wore street clothes.

In their last study, Adam and Galinsky wanted to discover if simply looking at a physical item, like a coat, would affect behavior. So what, exactly, is going on when people have different behaviors when they wear the same article of clothing but are told it belongs to different professions?

Or when they wear the clothing instead of just looking at it? These researchers believe that clothing holds symbolic meaning. They claim that the influence of clothes depends both on wearing the clothing and the meaning it invokes in their psychological schemas. People must ascribe a symbolic meaning to the article of clothing and actually wear it, for that clothing to have any measurable effect.


For example, doctors who wear coats are generally thought to be highly intelligent, precise, and scientific thinkers. Artistic painters are generally thought to be creative, free-spirited types.

What kind of symbolic meaning does each article of clothing in your closet hold for you? Do your loafers remind you of a logical, erudite lawyer? Do your 4-inch high heels make you think of a confident woman walking down Wall Street? Does your leather bomber jacket make you think of a rebel?

Perhaps you can choose to make the monotonous daily task of getting dressed more fun and work to your advantage.

Try mindfully incorporating the findings discovered from the enclothed cognition experiments to intentionally shape your subjective psychological experience and performance each day, or on special days say, when you have a job interview, a date, or need to take a test. Men, maybe the tie you choose is the key article that will enhance your day? Try this, and let me know how your intentional, enclothed cognition experiment evolves.

Do you notice any behavioral changes? Or, is getting dressed simply, more fun? Either way looks good! Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. Molecular evolution of Pediculus humanus and the origin of clothing. Current Biology, 13 Molecular Biology and Evolution, 28 Not seeing the pictures for the book links? Disable Adblocking for this site to view them. Maybe there is something to that.

I know that, the other day, I chose to wear a suit rather than business casual, and it did make a difference in my own perception of myself and that likely radiated to others. The clothes do make the man, as the saying goes. Great article and intriguing research. Now if only I could learn to accessorize… Thanks Em! What you note about the decline in casual Fridays makes sense—given the research; I did not know that—thanks for sharing! Also, great to hear your own story about how dressing intentionally had the effect you hoped for!

I imagine you did radiate your enhanced psychological feeling state toward others—in an additive way.

Introducing “enclothed cognition” – how what we wear affects how we think – Research Digest

Here are examples in which my clothing affected the behavior of others. While shopping on two different occasions, when I was wearing a suit and tie, I was approached by customers who inquired of me how they could apply for a job at the store.

On encloothed different occasion Halloween cognitioh, I came to work at the college where I was a full-time, tenured professor dressed a bit differently than usual.

I had not shaved nor washed my hair that day, and I wore a mismatched suit and tie made up of several items from the local Salvation Army store. After she finally recognized me, she noted enclthed she felt a bit frightened by my appearance when I entered the office. Thank you for your articles! The Halloween experience is quite striking. I imagine that the initial stereotypes that most humans automatically encoothed to others kicked in for her in that moment. But, this human tendency is so brilliantly exemplified in the case you shared—all based on how you were dressed.


Thank you for writing, Mark! Interesting comment about casual Fridays. My company headquarters actually moved from casual Fridays to casual every day as a way to increase autonomy. I have enjoyed the freedom and the cost savings of wearing jeans to work but I have to admit that I do feel more confident when I dress the part. I notice many people still choose to dress in business casual attire even though there is no requirement to do so.

So I usually try to be the most casually dressed person in any meeting because it enclothev a reflection of the feeling we try to create in our spas! Thank you for this very interesting article. Did you cognltion any research on uniforms?

In what ways do uniforms affect the pyschology and performance of their wearers? Of course, a Hollister t-shirt is different from something that engenders a sense of real belonging or community. How do you feel when you enclothdd, say, your UCLA sweatshirt? It seems that the shift to daily casual wear could actually be a profound way to create balance—especially in your industry—where calm, relaxation, and letting go are paramount and, so very difficult for us Westerners to achieve.

Secondly, I did not encounter any research on uniforms; however, there is some fascinating a bit tangential but, nonetheless… research about how sports and sports teams are the only measured ways that racial prejudices are erased. So, I wonder how the combination of a uniform and being surrounded by uniforms that symbolize such qualities like intelligence, achievement, etc.

Third, to answer your question—when I wear my UCLA t-shirt, I feel different depending on the geographic location in which I am wearing the shirt.

And, wearing a UPenn t-shirt produces an entirely different effect, as does wearing an Atlanta Braves baseball cap. I loved this research. I help individuals who want to improve their fitness and start running. One of my key areas of focus is to help them improve motivation. I often recommend my clients who have a lot of resistance start by simply putting on work out clothes every day for a full week.

I look forward to brand new updates and will talk about this blog with my Facebook group.

Enclothed Cognition: Put On Your Power!

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