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Thursday
Apr052012

Study: You Are What You Wear

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(EVANSTON, Ill.) -- For all you ladies out there who stand a little taller when you purchase those expensive pumps or a new silk top, fear not.  New research from Northwestern University validates the power that comes with clothes, and the price tag you might associate with it.

We’ve all heard the old adage, “You are what you eat.”  Well, you might add, "You are what you wear.”

Northwestern’s research introduced the term “enclothed cognition” to describe the connection between clothing and psychology.

“Clothes cognition is really about becoming the clothes themselves and having them direct who you are and how you act in the world,” study author Adam Galinsky said.  ”When we are putting on a suit, we are not only giving impressions to other people, but we are also giving an impression to ourselves.  We feel the rich, silk fabric on our arms; that allows us to take on the characteristics of those clothes.”

The researchers examined the phenomenon by having participants wear a white lab coat, describing it as a doctor’s coat.

“When they put it on and saw it as a doctor’s coat, they became more attentive,” Galinsky said.  “But if they put on the same coat and we call it an artist’s coat, a painter’s coat, then you didn’t get the affect.”

Galinsky, a professor of ethics and decision in management, said this is because doctors need to ”be attentive” and by wearing the coat you take on a “symbolic meaning of what it means to be a doctor, attentive and smarter.”  Those with the artists coats were found to become more creative.

The concept for the research stemmed from an episode of  The Simpsons.  The episode featured a group of children in gray uniforms who were very quiet.  After a rainstorm came and washed the clothing into color, their behaviors changed.

“[I] started thinking about how the clothes you wear and the meaning” behind those clothes, Galinsky said.  “If you put on a black T-shirt, you become more aggressive.  You put on a nurse’s uniform, you become more helpful.”

One question that remains for the Northwestern researchers is whether habitually wearing the same clothing affects the psychological effects.  But, in the meantime, the next time you are searching for something to wear, remember, “the clothes that you wear seep into the fabric” of your psyche, Galinsky said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio