The Wardrobe Does Make the Man – and the Woman

New research from Northwestern University in the field of embodied cognition has demonstrated that a group of people who wore a doctor’s white coat, understanding the meaning of the coat, scored better on cognitive testing than a similar group of people who wore a similar coat believing it to be a painter’s white coat.

The study, conducted by Adam Galinsky, PhD of the Kellogg School of Business, was published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, and reported in the New York Times this week. It advanced research in the field that has conducted other types of physiological experiments which measure an individual’s self perception or another’s perception of the individual after changing some aspect of their appearance.

Research in Embodied Cognition has demonstrated that:

  • Teaching assistants who wear more formal clothing are perceived as smarter than those who come to work casually dressed.
  • When meeting someone who has just held a cold drink in their hand, you are more likely to perceive them as cold and unfeeling. The reverse is true for someone who holds a warm drink in their hand – when you shake their hand you perceive them as warm and friendly.
  • Golfers who use a club they perceive as being used by a professional golfer will perform better on similar shots under similar conditions.
  • Women who were interviewed wearing masculine fashion are more likely to be hired.
  • If you carry a heavy clipboard, you are likely to feel important.

Perhaps embodied cognition research can help us to tap into our own confidence and abilities – and to broadcast these abilities to our colleagues, and the research community we serve. After all, if we are the secret to our investigators’ success, why hide in a pair of jeans and a button down?

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