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The Clothes Make the Man

Posted on: Thursday, July 12, 2018 Category: Blog (51)

Did you know that the clothes you wear can impact how you act and feel?

The phenomenon of uniform has been explored by a vast number of researchers in modern psychology. From Milgram’s experiments on obedience to authoritative looking figures to Zimbardo’s prison experiment and Bickman’s work on social power perceptions, uniform has been found to significantly impact how others perceive and treat you.

But, did you know that the wearer is also influenced by the uniform? Zimbardo touched on this concept within the 1971 Stamford Prison Experiment, where prisoners and guards internalised their identities. This was an extreme case occurring under a more controlled environment and in roles far different to their real-world roles. However, researchers from the University of Illinois and California have found that clothing can induce manipulation of social class, leading to engendered class consistent behaviours and physiology.

During negotiations, participants wearing upper-status clothing (i.e. a suit) would develop more dominant behaviours and increases in testosterone levels. Negotiations with upper-status wearing participants would also elicit changes in the other participant. Perceivers increased senses of vigilance and attention, as well as decreased feelings of power following negotiations.

Conversely, wearing lower-status clothing (i.e. sweats) resulted in lower levels of testosterone in the wearer, while perceivers did not exhibit physiological or psychological changes.

While the research focused purely on changes in males, it does provide significant insight into the power clothing has on ourselves, impacting our beliefs and behaviours in social communication. So, to own the boardroom, suit up!

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